Cowpuncher My Ass ★★★ Southbank Centre | February 15, 2023

Holly Blakey first presented this show in 2018, and in its present longer, updated iteration we might have expected to see the final-release version, but that may not be the case. While Cowpuncher My Ass has a nod to certain cowboy tropes such as line dancing, steer riding and lassoing, for the most part, the wild west is notably absent. Still, as promised, the buttocks do appear, and they pulsate rhythmically to Mica Levi's brutalist score. However, neither the score, nor the costumes (designed by Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood) have any relation to the titular cowpuncher. Nevertheless, they did complement each other and Blakey's choreography. The latter borrows from many contemporary sources to create a rave-like dance experience which, when accompanied by the body-penetrating vibration of the soundtrack, becomes quite hypnotic at times. However, the decision to keep the house lighting up throughout the majority of the performance ensures that there are frequent distractions from the mood that is being created. On the other hand, the seven dancers do an excellent job of performing the piece and capturing its changing tone, from the sinuous and sensual to the mechanical and almost brutal. Their athleticism and energy are awe-inspiring. The addition of the London Contemporary Orchestra seems superfluous, adding little to the evening except to provide the dancers with a well-earned break from their exertions. In the handout provided before the show, we are told that there is a narrative about "a wicked cowboy," but the fact that this blurb eschews sentences actually indicates the major drawback of this current presentation. While there are interesting moments, Cowpuncher My Ass ultimately lacks continuity and a coherent concept.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Arnaud Mbaki.

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