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Brighton Fringe 2014

The Many Apologies of Pecos Bill

Greg Wohead

Genre: Storytelling

Venue: Marlborough


Low Down

 The true story of two Texans – who falls in love with a cowgirl riding a giant catfish. His name is Pecos Bill. Raised by coyotes, uses a rattlesnake as a lasso, the greatest cowboy of all time.

The other Texan once passed out from exhaustion on a 3-mile hike. His name is Greg.


 This gentle mix of storytelling and music has a quiet elegiac feel to it – not that it doesn’t segue into a more energetic and  cartoony mode as Greg Wohead mixes the story of the eponymous Peco Bill, brought up by coyotes and his nervous counterpart , Greg, who finds roller coasters a little too scary for comfort. The accompaniment from Mat Martin, little licks from a quiet banjo, to the sustained harmonics of an ebow on his guitar, is unobtrusive, but absolutely right throughout. This  mix of fantasy and autobiography is juxtaposed with images from Texas projected on the back wall – the barbed wire fence and vast flat field, the giant Texan, Big Tex, at Texas State Fair in Dallas – a fifty-five foot manikin that is the ultimate in American kitsch, and interspersed with soft cowboy songs from the hills.  It all sounds a bit much in the description, but Pecos Bill works by pulling all these things together in an illuminating narrative of growing up, looking back and the problem of what risks to take when.  Greg Wohead has a quiet but resonate voice that gains in vigour when he takes the part of Pecos Bill, quieter when he takes the part of his autobiographical self Greg, so that when the mash-up between the two voices and parts becomes faster and more frequent we can still follow the individual strands with ease.

In a slightly less successful continuation narrative, read from a Moleskine notebook, we have a low key and detailed realistic story of home- leaving. This suffered from being read too fast and without rhythm, which was a failure in direction I think as Greg Wohead certainly has the depth and tone of voice to make this far more interesting.  The performance overall is great story-telling though, an American rustic homespun style, not too polished but not too folksy, so that the sense of personal tale comes across well – and allows a live connection with the audience – “you do know about the relationship between a man and his horse, don’t you? – don’t you?” he says – and we don’t.  There are other ad-libs and gags that are well delivered throughout. The opening device – the creating of a storm sound effect with a series of Mexican waves of different sounds from the audience sets the mood for a more intimate and connected performance.
Overall this show was a dreamy ride, almost restful, with some beautiful wistful cowboy singing, unthreateningly surreal and a refreshing change from some of the more in your face fringe theatre. That’s not to say that it was anodyne, it’s a reflective piece, but with pace and texture, and a nice sense of both open endedness and completion in the story it tells. 


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