Plastic Cowboys: Mum\'s Gone Away

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

The Plastic Cowboys feel like an oven-ready Radio 4 sketch
show. Or at least, they feel like the crude stereotype of a Radio
4 sketch show - smart, wry, slickly performed and resolutely
middle-class ­ even though the comedy world has moved on.

They are a safe, reliable trio ­ producing a decent flow
of laughs without being challenging nor distinctive. You could
slot the best of their efforts into any number of other similar,
successful shows and not see the join; but the consequence is
that there's no Plastic Cowboys signature that makes their work
stand out as their own.

At their best, they bring a calculated darkness to proceedings.
The moment when two sci-fi geeks meet a revered author has a
satisfyingly disturbing tone which reappears at other moments.
But often subjects that might aspire to being blackly funny are
treated too flippantly to really impact. It's the difference
between casually shooting someone dead as a punchline, which
is a blunt, unimaginative way of getting out of a sketch, compared
to sustaining an uncomfortable air of menace as the League Of
Gentlemen can at their sinister best. The Cowboys too often shoot
first, and don't ask questions later.

Not that being dark is a particular motif for them, nothing
is. Other sketches, set during the war, on Christmas Eve night,
or at the urinals vary in their aspirations, often just being
silly is their aim.

The performances are solid, even if the characters don't stretch
their abilities too much. An attempt to play a little boy on
Santa's knee, for example, makes no concessions to how such a
child might actually speak or act, he's just the straight man
in a double act, feeding the lines through. James Howick stands
out as the best character actor, with a demeanour well suited
to senior, slightly pompous, authority figures.

Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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