Hitch Your Wagon | Brighton Fringe comedy review
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Hitch Your Wagon

Brighton Fringe comedy review

Sitting beneath a vast canvas of stars in the untamed American wilderness, a flicking campfire casts dancing shadows on the weathered faces of a posse of cowboys, as one strums the soothing strains of an old folk song on their guitar…

In the basement bar of a Brighton pub, improv troupe Tea & Toast excel at creating the raw prairie spirit; the audience seated in a circle around the comforting flames as our troubadours move and sit among us, bidding us a warm ‘howdie’ as they kick back after a long, hard day of driving cattle.

The titles of the songs with which they will serenade us have all been suggested by the audience, written on scraps of paper pulled from a mug. The slips are all suitably weathered to again reflect the Old West aesthetic, as no detail is overlooked in this classy production.

Characters and running jokes are quickly and efficiently established out of nothing, from hard-working, ‘too nice’ Mirabelle taking on every job in town to Bucking Bronco Bruce, whose gang rode to their death over a ridge.

As improvisers, the team are tight as Drunk Pete after a night on the moonshine, and there rarely trip-ups, beyond the occasional inability to read the contributors’ handwriting.

Many laughs come from just how badly the song title plucked from the pile matches the build-up it’s been given. A romantic love song called That Is The Oldest Goddam Horse I Ever Did See? Sure, why not. That said, Carry On Cowboy, is a fine title for an all-American prayer.

There are some yee-ha-has, but songs tend to be more technically impressive than laugh-out-loud funny. While the team have a slick flow, rarely missing a rhyme, there’s also a lot of padding as they constantly repeat the song title as an easy refrain. It helps the languid atmosphere, but at the expense of gags.

The songs are more often melodic lullabies than rootin’ tootin’ toetappers – though they have their moments – which again lulls the audience into appreciative contentment, if not paroxysms of laughter. A bit more variety would be a welcome addition, as would an attempt to develop stories beyond the immediate idea, as the alter-egos the team conjure up are all full of potential.

But the improv and performative skills of the team are beyond doubt, nor is the warm campfire atmosphere in which they cloak the audience.

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Review date: 3 Jun 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton The Walrus

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