EdFringe 2022 Review: And Then The Rodeo Burned Down

And Then The Rodeo Burned Down from Chloe Rice and Natasha Roland takes hold in theSpaceUK’s Niddry Street venue until August 13th this Edinburgh Fringe. The absurdist, fourth wall breaking piece prods fun at the hyper-masculinity of the rodeo but soon delves into a wider deconstruction of theatre and theatrical techniques.

Opening with the burning down of an American rodeo ground, the mystery of who committed this act of arson soon begins. Rodeo clown Dale dreams of being a cowboy, something his shadow dubbed Dillydally seeks to interfere with. Yet there are even more pressing problems – finances. It’s expensive to become a cowboy, find a culprit, and utilise theatrical devices.

And Then The Rodeo Burned Down packs some wonderful moments of clowning into its forty minutes. Numbers set to Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, and Elvis Presley’s Devil In Disguise capture the madcap antics in the world of rodeo clowns – their routines set to warm up the audience and most importantly keep fellow performers safe from the bulls. In this case, the bull isn’t too fearsome and spends more time pondering what is on the outside of the rodeo than seeking violence. Most of the early stages centre on the cautiously flirtatious stages of Dale and Dillydally’s relationship – injecting an amusing jolt of queerness into the hypermasculine world of cowboys and rodeos. Encounters with cigarette puffing cowboys and pondering bulls make up the rest of the action, until the piece’s meta-twist comes into play.

In some fourth-wall breaking moments the actors themselves question the nature of the plot. Why does Dale actually want to be a cowboy? Who actually burned down the rodeo? They make it all seem rather trivial as the go on to deconstruct the narrative, its techniques and tropes. Questioning the amount of swearing they can afford, whether they should try to invest in a number of plot twists, or if a red herring could be afforded, all come into question. Still packing a similar amount of silliness into these moments as the scenes of clowning, And Then The Rodeo Burns Down is a shape-shifting piece that really defies easy classification.

Chloe Rice and Natasha Roland have a natural bounce and enthusiasm on stage, a believable connection as friends and colleagues. They fully embrace the silliness and spectacle of And Then The Rodeo Burns Down with an enjoyable gusto, guiding us through the sometimes perplexing parallel narratives of the piece. Whilst there is an element of amusement in the deconstruction of the theatrical tropes and devices of the show, it just about exhausts its forty minute run-time. I wasn’t personally sure that this had enough mileage for the time devoted to it, also proving somewhat jarring with the earlier rodeo narrative.

And Then The Rodeo Burned Down runs until August 13th as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. Get your tickets here.

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