EDINBURGH 2023: Review: COWBOYS AND LESBIANS, Pleasance Dome

A fiercely funny queer rom-com

By: Aug. 17, 2023
EDINBURGH 2023: Review: COWBOYS AND LESBIANS, Pleasance Dome
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EDINBURGH 2023: Review: COWBOYS AND LESBIANS, Pleasance Dome Cowboys and Lesbians, quite simply, does what it says on the tin. But it does so in a fiercely funny, heartwarming way that leaves you walking out with a big smile on your face.

The show opens with two teenage girls, Noa and Nina, waiting for the school bus. They’re lovably awkward school nerds, imagining how their lives might look if they were in a cliche film. We are then transported to the ranch of the film they are making up - Noa transforms into alternative bookworm Elda (short for Esmerelda, of course), while Nina becomes bad-boy farmhand Carter (surname for a first name, of course). As their double lives unfold in parallel, the lines begin to blur and love begins to blossom.

Billie Esplen’s script revels in cliche and trope - it’s a genius work of satire, immediately so familiar. All the characters fit neatly into archetypes, and their exaggerated mannerisms, catchphrases, and gestures are hilarious. What is particularly impressive is the way the show balances the ridiculous and over-the-top with the touching and genuine. The real world plotline features some properly laugh-out-loud moments of young women discovering their sexuality, once again falling into cliches but in a way that feels really truthful and relatable. Quips about not being able to picture having sex with men and being weirdly obsessed with your English teacher land very well with this show’s audience, perceptive and comedic at the same time.

Cowboys and Lesbians wouldn’t be half as funny as it is without Georgia Vyvyan and Julia Pilkington’s fantastic performances. Vyvyan as Noa does some side-splitting face acting, with moody, not-like-other-girls expressions to rival the likes of Bella Swan and Katniss Everdeen. Meanwhile, Pilkington as Nina excels as the brooding Carter, wall-punches and hat-tips earning full-on belly laughs. 

Both also do a good job of shifting between the two worlds of the story, with distinctive voice work. The show would perhaps be tighter if the changes between the two worlds were blocked more clearly or more creatively, using this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle and further illustrating the parallels. In every other way, writer Esplen’s direction brings out the comedy in the script perfectly.

This is a show full of heart and genuine laugh-out-loud comedy. It leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling - a must-see not only for fans of cowboys or of lesbians but for any theatregoers wanting a proper laugh. 

Cowboys and Lesbians runs at Pleasance Dome until 27 August

Image Credit: Arabella Kennedy-Compston


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