‘Long Gone Lonesome Cowgirls’ was knee-slappin’.
As you walk through the doors of Gold Coast Little Theatre, the strum of guitars and banjos and that ol’ honky-tonk piano immediately set the scene of 1960’s country. Complete with a simple, well-dressed and effective set spilling over the proscenium and up the side wings of the theatre, the world of outback Australia is brought into the theatre.
Split down the middle with corrugated iron, ‘Long Gone Lonesome Cowgirls’ included two main settings. The right side showed off the interior of an iconic Queenslander, stuffed with crockery, a picture of Jesus, and a shrine to the ‘gods’ of country music. On the other side, complete with an on-stage band, The Texas Outlaws, was the local pub, with a huge wall-hanging sign proudly proclaiming the name “Victory”. The setting created an effective juxtaposition between a prim and proper house and a dingy outback pub.
The Texas Outlaws, ‘locals’ of Injune, comprised Jordan Ferrigno on drums, George Pulley playing the banjo and keyboard, and the guitar stylings and deep country drawl of Lawrie Esmond. After seeing the band warm up the crowd up with some country classics, ‘Long Gone Lonesome Cowgirls’ was underway.
The band themselves existed wonderfully on-stage, switching between being the only performers, to blending into the background and acting as the band of the Victory pub. They were also effectively used to cover costume changes and convey the passage of time. ‘The Texas Outlaws’ had the crowd singing along to country classics such as Hank Williams’ ‘Ramblin’ Man’, Patsy Cline’s ‘Sweet Dreams’, and even a bit of ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E’ by Tammy Wynette. Though there were a few moments which initially sounded slightly lost, The Texas Outlaws played well overall and worked brilliantly with actors on stage.
Though there may have been a few lights triggered too early or in the wrong order, this was not enough to draw from the immersion of the performance. The simple but effective lighting states worked well to highlight the different sets throughout the theatre.
‘Long Gone Lonesome Cowgirls’ was carried by two capable actresses, Francesca Spear, playing the pious homemaker awaiting her hole-digging husband, and Becky Morgan’s ‘Rae’, a feisty foul-mouthed barmaid stuck in town after her cowboy beau of eight weeks disappeared in his white Cadillac. As they were the only two characters on stage, both actresses needed to be strong performers, and director Michelle Watkins certainly succeeded in finding that in Spear and Morgan. The relaxed delivery, comfortable range placement and lovely natural tone of both were displayed during the show, particularly in a few duets throughout. Crisp harmonies were particularly showcased in ‘Jackson’ by Johnny Cash and June Carter and Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’. Though there was only one song that took place in the audience, Morgan and Spear had no problems filling the theatre with their vocals and stage presence, bringing you into the world of Vicki and Rae.
Watkins has worked well with both actors to create very distinct characters that are both believable and fill the theatre with their presence. Becky Morgan and Francesca Spear’s portrayal of the classic ‘odd couple’ troupe was perfect. Set against the wild swinging 60s, Rae’s sailor mouth vocabulary bounced naturally and comedically off the rigid, Christian values of Vicki. As the narrative progressed, both actors again showcased their character work, with believable reactions to the ups and downs of friendship, womanhood in the 1960’s outback, and figuring out their place in a world filled with uncertainty. The character arcs and relationships felt natural and unforced, with both Rae and Vicki sharing a bit of themselves with the other.
Whether you are a country fan of Rae and Vicki or not, ‘Long Gone Lonesome Cowgirls’ is an excellent slice-of-life performance, and a fantastic night out for the drover and greenhorn alike that will have you boot-scootin’ out the door.
Gold Coast Little Theatre is holding performances until Saturday, 22 February 2020. Book tickets at Gold Coast Little Theatre’s Website before these cowgirls hit the trail, or check out the rest of their season.