A Play for the Stage
The Cowboys at The Waterside Theatre, Derry/Londonderry
Review by Bernadette Ó Huiginn
. “The Cowboys”, written and directed by Peter Trant, is a dramatic and highly entertaining play set in a fictional town somewhere along the border. It tells a complex, darkly humorous tale of love, betrayal and revenge. After many years, away, the protagonist, Bobby Courtney, returns to his hometown for his father’s funeral. Old animosities between him and his nemesis, Johnny Murtagh, the Meat Factory Manager, bubble ominously to the surface. Two Meat Factory Workers, Sonny and Phil, observe it all. At first this duo, with their laugh-out-loud humour, appear to be outside the action, almost like a Greek chorus, but we soon realize that they are, in fact, central to events as they unfold. Behind their banter, oblique clues hint at horrors past and to come. A sense of menace permeates the action right from the beginning and tension builds inexorably as the plot moves to its shocking climax.
As director, Trant has a sure mastery of the elements that go into creating a strong piece of theatre and he works them skilfully in this production. He shows a great understanding of stagecraft, never letting the pace falter and using the minimalist sets and lighting to very good advantage. As writer, Trant has created a cast of vividly drawn characters. Those in the pivotal roles of Bobby and Johnny, and especially, Silk Cut Sonny and Big Phil were excellent. These last two are superb creations and, as inhabited by Pat Deery as Sonny and Dennis O’Hagan as Phil, they were totally convincing. Pat Deery’s gripping performance was a stand-out. The play is greatly enlivened by dialogue that manages a colourful verve without losing plausibility. It is rich in the pungent local idioms of the northern borderlands.