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Cowboys and Lesbians | Park Theatre

In a world where queer characters often find themselves confined to stereotypical two-dimensional narratives, Cowboys and Lesbians rides onto the stage with a refreshing take on romantic clichés. Produced by Eleanor Birdsall-Smith and written and directed by Billie Esplen, this sparklingly camp coming-of-age romcom introduces us to Noa (Georgia Vyvyan) and Nina (Julia Pilkington), two 17-year-old best friends questioning the perils of growing up and why intrigue and romance seem to be exclusive to others.

The play unfolds against the detailed backdrop of a set designed by Esme Solomon, reminiscent of an old western cowboy town. Jamie Platt's lighting design beautifully complements the aesthetics, guiding the audience through key moments without ever distracting from the unfolding drama. The simplicity of the set allows the characters and their stories to take centre stage.

As Nina and Noa poke fun at the tropes surrounding young love and girlhood, a fabulous parallel narrative emerges. Esplen cleverly weaves a world of cowboys with over the top melodrama, serving as a starting point for the girls to explore their own fantasies and desires. Esplen's script brilliantly navigates familiar tropes and clichés, creating characters with exaggerated mannerisms and personalities that still manage to be touching and meaningful. This delicate balance is a testament to Esplen's skillful storytelling. The use of the fantasy world becomes a tool to challenge gender stereotypes, offering a clever and witty commentary on societal expectations.

The brilliance of Cowboys and Lesbians lies in its subtle approach in confronting hard-hitting and universal themes like gender, friendship and romance. Esplen's writing is rather witty and biting and never on the nose. The satirical take on western films through Nina and Noa within the play becomes a clever vehicle for exploring the nuances and complexities of relationships and feelings. The performances by the cast are sublime: Vyvyan captures Noa's sweetness and enthusiasm with a delightful authenticity, while Pilkington embodies the quirky and slightly closed-off Nina with sincerity. The chemistry between the two performers is palpable, making their relationship immediately realistic, relatable, and endearing.

Both Vyvyan and Pilkington are extremely likable and deliver nuanced performances, portraying their characters with commitment and heart. The ending leaves us emotionally fulfilled, compelling us to cheer wholeheartedly for both characters. Funnily enough, it is this lighter and humorous style that hits hard and prompts us to contemplate the fundamental messages of the play.

Cowboys and Lesbians succeeds in being both comedic and moving. The satirising of western film tropes allows Nina and Noa to navigate their own coming-of-age journey in a way that is intelligent and emotionally resonant. In a genre where queer coming of age is often superficial or portrayed as an uphill climb, this play stands out from the crowd. It manages to be funny, charming, and full of heart, bringing the audience back to a place of innocent love – something the world could certainly use more of today.

Cowboys and Lesbians play at Park Theatre (Park90) till 9 March. For more information and tickets, follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Ella Pavlides


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