Brighton Fringe 2008
The Cows Come Home
Venue: The Udderplace
Festival: Brighton Fringe
Rare bite-sized tragedy, lean on text, heavy on movement, with bits of Oedipus, mad cows and live electro-acoustic sounds thrown in.
According to the program notes, the narrative of Cows Come Home was a mixture of the myth of Oedipus and a story of a farmer whose cattle become infected with BSE. On paper this sounds like an intriguing idea, the creation of parallels between a classic story and contemporary society. The show had a small amount of recorded dialogue and attempted to tell the story almost entirely through dance, which certainly made following this narrative a bit of a challenge. So while it did not elicit a strong response from me emotionally, there were some strong and noteworthy aspects to this performance.
Some moments of dancing were powerful, especially when the company were moving in unison. Striking sequences included one in which the two male dancers were seemingly trying to attack each other, writhing madly and bouncing off each other; elsewhere, the company combined to represent a mock ‘childbirth’.
The soundtrack which provided the sparing fragments of narrative and was made up of dissonant distortion, muffled speech and snatches of music created a very atmospheric setting. This was further enhanced by the imaginative use of lighting, where bare light bulbs were rigged around the set, and also by through the sparse use of props which were moved around freely creating this sense of impermanence and constant movement.
This show suffered from the age old dictum of ‘style over substance’. It was an interesting experiment, but when you experiment it makes life easier knowing what exactly you are trying to prove and in this performance it was not always clear.