Best experienced knowing nothing about it beforehand, And Then the Rodeo Burned Down will charm the bejeesus out of you at the King’s Head Theatre
“The rodeo is the best place in the world!”
It is rare that a show can completely surprise you. Between adverts, synopses on websites, even reviews from award-winning runs in Edinburgh, details slip through and so one often has a sense of what is to come. As a paying customer, that’s certainly desirable; as a reviewer, perhaps less so but no matter how you’re approaching this show, you’re sure to be bamboozled and bewitched.
Trying to describe And Then the Rodeo Burned Down is to go on a hiding to nothing. Created by NYC writer/performers Chloe Rice and Natasha Roland, the show explores gender and power dynamics through vaudeville and clowning. With a queer perspective and an absurdist bent, it takes a unique look at life as a wannabe cowboy but as metatheatrics take hold, it’s also about so much more.
I’ve tried my best there but the reality is is that this is a show best experienced. I could say that there’s a rodeo clown and their shadow but that flattens the richness of the exploration of identity here. I could say that one segment takes place from the viewpoint of a bull in an existential crisis but that doesn’t indicate any of the transcendent emotionality that emerges there.
Altogether, Rice and Roland have constructed something gorgeous, unexpected in its rich complexity and throught-provoking in the way that I love my theatre to be, Angelo Sagnelli’s inventive lighting adding nice texture too. There’s a lot of shows opening in the West End in the coming weeks but its these queer fringes where the most interesting work is happening.