Presented by: Theatre Works and Motherboard Productions in partnership with the VCA
A sitcom reject set in cyberspace (sort of) about how it takes 20-years to realise your grade 2 teacher was lying when she said you could be anything you wanted to be.
Sam meets two women online. They are both virgins. He decides it would be really interesting if he were the one to…. you know. The one. But Lane is more than he bargained for and Steph doesn’t really like him all that much. Then everything goes to hell when the internet and the past and present and the future and the stage smash together and it all falls apart.
It’s been called “a coming of age play”. It’s been called “better than being promoted to manager of a Subway sandwich bar”. And it’s been called “a bizarre tragedy”. Virgins and Cowboys comes to you – ha! whoa there! easy now! – from playwright Morgan Rose and indie sensation Motherboard Productions.
‘Motherboard…will have you thinking and feeling deeply. This is not just new world theatre; it’s a new world order. Motherboard is here to stay.’ XS Entertainment
WARNINGS: Adult concepts, coarse language and loud music
DURATION: Approx. 90 mins
A NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR:
“The title of this project, and the basic premise of the story (a guy that wants to have sex with a virgin), really doesn’t encompass the full spectrum of ideas and layers at play within Morgan Rose’s highly intelligent, dark comedy Virgins and Cowboys. I am drawn to this work because, for me, it speaks of a demographic of people spat out the other end of the information age – the age of the internet, overstimulation and those searching for meaning in life. We see the central character of Sam, the guy that wants to have sex with a virgin (because what else is there to do?), battling with a sense of despondency that manifests in the form of trite theatrical sitcom-esque comedy. However, the banality of Sam’s world-less existence, and the challenges placed upon him by his friends and lovers (the virgins), quickly deteriorates the world of the play into an absurdist tragedy about our the inability to connect. “Just… Burn it all down”
As the director of this piece, I aim to take audience outside of the narrative, to get them thinking on a more metaphysical level. Through my experience working in highly stylised, physical forms, I am excited about pushing the limits of a text-initiated processes, using an excellent piece of new Australia writing as the starting point for what will hopefully be a bit of an acid-trip-of-a-show.”
|Director and Co-Designer||Dave Sleswick|
|Lighting Designer||Lisa Mibus|
|Sound Design||Liam Barton|
|Assistant Director||Katy Maudlin|
|Stage Manager||Kate Brennen|
|Performers||Katrina Cornwell, James Deeth, Penelope Harpham, George Lingard, Kieran Law|
“Morgan Rose’s Virgins and Cowboys presents, examines and deconstructs the shortcomings and consequences of perverse ambition, and the grey in-betweens of a generation that is always looking for something more.
Presented by Theatre Works and Motherboard Productions in partnership with the VCA, Virgins and Cowboys, as part of FLIGHT Festival of New Australian Writing, traverses bounds far deeper than its outset leads one to believe.
Subway sandwich artist, Sam (Kieran Law), a 23-year-old university dropout, meets two girls online; two virgins – and, in lauding the praises of finding something seemingly so rare, he and his friends Dale (George Lingard) and Kieran (James Deeth) decide the he should be the one to deflower one of these virgins. Yet this wish is foiled not only by Lane’s (Penelope Harpham) initially manic and obsessive nature and Steph’s (Katrina Cornwell) seeming disinterest, but also by deeper personal and shared flaws. However, this basic premise of the play’s story merely scratches the surface of Rose’s sharp and immersive dark comedy.
A sense of personal disconnectedness in the cyber world, as well as in reality, is heightened and played upon in the outset, manifesting in several stifled and awkward exchanges that feel familiar yet foreign at the same time. This consciousness of the changing mediums in which relationships are created and maintained in the 21st century is skilfully reflected in Yvette Turnbull’s simple and effective design, which, as with Sam’s world as the play progresses, falls apart into a worldless mass of distilled emotion.
Effective and engaging performances from the entire cast of five prove to translate various raw feelings and energies into frequently relatable examples of our contemporary human condition. Kieran Law gave voice to a deeply broken Sam, whose progressive descent was competently conveyed, rounding out a sometimes deftly funny, yet sometimes intensely sensitive performance. Penelope Harpham shone as one of the two virgins, Lane, delivering a dextrous and often deliciously comic performance. However, brilliance existed in her embodiment of some strongly moving moments of poignant naivety. George Lingard and James Deeth as Sam’s friends Dale and Kieran worked well in creating a small sense of connection in reality with Sam and others, delivering, at points, some moments of stifling confrontational honesty with Katrina Cornwell’s Steph injecting a sense of some more mature real-talk.
Dave Sleswick’s commendable direction resulted in a rounded, cohesive whole, taking Rose’s script into a physical dimension beyond words, with several very interesting and successful choices. Technically, Virgins and Cowboys was complemented with an effective lighting design by Lisa Mimbus and sound design with Liam Barton – each proving to positively heighten the atmospheric world of the play.
The play navigates hills and valleys, both high and low, essentially exploiting the turmoils of an increasingly disconnected world, among Rose’s well constructed moments of fast-paced comedy and more emotional exchanges. With strong emotional deteriorations amid a progressively banal and condensed emotional experience, Virgins and Cowboys exists as a successful probe into our current world, and the seemingly endless, often unfruitful, pursuit of a vague whiff of happiness.
With the characters possessing elements of people you know and recognise, there are, indeed, strong facets that are relatable – in some way or another. As a result, Virgins and Cowboys successfully stirs thoughts and feelings within, provoking thought about society’s inability to connect, and aims to possess something worthwhile. What exactly those thoughts and feelings are, however, I cannot quite pin down: that is why the piece works so well.”
“The genius of comedy is its ability to enlighten, challenge and delight audience members all at the same time. On that note, there’s Morgan Rose’s Virgins and Cowboys: a work that addresses female sexuality, rape culture, and male ownership of women.
Performed as a part of the Flight Festival of New Writing, Virgins and Cowboys starts with a simple idea: Sam (Kieran Law) wants to deflower a virgin. His two mates (George Lingard and James Deeth) are behind the idea as he is torn between pursuing the grossly over-earnest Lane (Penelope Harpham) or inhibited and steely Steph (Katrina Cornwell). Young minds try to navigate their sexual desires as each character is forced to face their oncoming busloads of maturity and responsibilities to each other.
The entire cast is tremendous. Kieran Law is delightfully flawed as leading man Sam, and plays the likeable no-hoper with extraordinary energy. James Deeth is masterfully restrained and Katrina Cornwell brings a resounding emotional beauty to the older woman, who’s really only 29. George Lingard and Penelope Harpham need to be given lots of hugs and presents. Hilarious and phenomenal.
The combined physical theatre backgrounds of playwright Morgan Rose, director Dave Sleswick and choreographer Dale Thorburn mean this show was always going to be a visual treat with an awareness of movements and an absurd theatrical logic. Rose has a wit that stings in equal measure with heart, mind and humour, and Virgins and Cowboys is both brilliant and unpredictable. The set design by Sleswick and Yvette Turnbull has a bright and striking humour all of its own, quirky and consistently poignant. Country music is terrifically played out by sound designer Liam Barton.
The young-centric social commentary of Lena Dunham meets the sexual liberation of Amy Schumer for coffee. Consequentially, Virgins and Cowboys is born; female objectification and rape culture are poised to collapse. Morgan Rose is a biting new name in the Melbourne playwriting community, and she is dreamily matched up with this cast and crew. Would recommend memorising the names of every person involved in this play.”
Time Out Melbourne