by Alix Cohen
The Charolais breed of cattle is used quite often in Ireland, bred commonly amongst farmers and often reported as the leading terminal sire for suckler cow herds.
Whatever you’re assuming based on publicity, it’s likely to be inadequate to Charolais. The play is unexpectedly original, well written, acted, and directed. It’s off the wall, but in the best sense, not novelty for novelty’s sake but in the service of the piece. Character and relationships rule. There’s a love story (perhaps two), sex, jealousy, determination, timidity, murder, regret, and, yes a sensuous, sympathetic, self-aware cow (not the heroine) who sings in French.
Siobhan enters the kitchen in a blood soaked apron, her butcher knife and hands dripping red. “The woman who invented the best way of killing animals was a vegetarian. Mad isn’t it?..” She’s matter of fact about much that would disturb the rest of us. Irish accent is strong, but enunciation clear. This is a country girl, working on a farm belonging to Jimmy and his “thunderin’, old bitch ma,” Breda. There’s no fourth wall. The actress irresistibly looks into our eyes.
Jimmy is Siobhan’s strong, silent lover. She had to make the first move and is now pregnant. “I like country boys. Cause they’re mucky. And they talk slow. And they don’t stand too close t’ya cause they’re used ta sayin hello over walls and hedges and from the top of tractors…” He’s also a mama’s boy, as yet unwilling to admit imminent fatherhood. Nor is Breda the girl’s only competition. Jimmy’s prize cow, a Charolais, garners an inordinate amount of care and attention.
Both girl and cow have healthy, articulate sexual appetites. In fact, they have several character traits in common. Siobhan, however, hates “that fuckin’ cow…” for whom Jimmy would do anything, even more than she hates his disdainful, interfering ma. She plots. What ensues is not what one anticipates. Even the opening blood is misdirection.
Creator/ actress Noni Stapleton plays Siobhan with earthy freshness and honesty. Her inventively physical manifestation of the cow should get an award for the best bovine fanny on stage. And we buy it. All of it. The situation is pithy not whimsical, relatable (I swear), frustrating, infuriating, funny and touching. You’ll never see anything like it.
Director Bairbre Ni Chaoimh conjures her characters with imagination and compassion, never losing sight of emotion in favor of flippancy.
Photos by Hunter Canning
Fishamble presents Charolais
Written and Performed by Noni Stapleton
Directed and Developed by Bairbre Ni Chaoimh
59E59 Theaters http://www.59e59.org/
Through September 24, 2015