Drama Saddle up for the wild Wild East

Saddle up for the wild Wild East

Rob Murray and his splendidly inventive Ubom! team must have thrown around quite a few titles before settling on Hoss (as in ‘horse’ and a character in the vintage TV show Bonanza), a name that doesn’t quite do justice to this gleeful, heartfelt graphic novel of a production, complete with avenging angel and his sexy, deadly female sidekick.

“Every day is Judgment Day,” to Bronchorante (yes, unlike Sergio Leone-vintage Eastwood, this man has a name).

As the chorus sings: “Secrets have a way of coming out”, and when they do, our Man in Black will punish the perpetrators of those sinful secrets.

And there are sins galore, involving rape, murder, abuse, land grabs, maternal lies, fraternal deceit, exploitation and more.

Of course the plot is important and the themes too, but, as usual with Murray’s work, the strength of the work lies in how the story is told.

The set is an Eastern Cape trading store version of a Western movie saloon, complete with swing doors, but a mounted springbok head stands in for a longhorn.

You get the idea.

The bar-cum-store counter becomes a stage in itself, as the cast stages a finger-walking version of the Eastern Cape frontier wars involving the Boere, the AmaXhosa and the Brits.

Things open up when the punisher is introduced.

This relentless, mystical figure is spectacularly embodied by Andrew Buckland, who is given more dialogue than any self-respecting physical actor deserves, and has a glorious time with it – whether in hi-pardner mode or using a flat Eastern Cape accent.

Needless to say, his physical work is as disciplined as a dancer’s.

However the whole company – sadly, not fully credited in the Festival programme – match up to their more experienced colleague.

They sing, they clown, they move – they are a joy to watch.

A special word of praise for the sinister sidekick.

Murray has always had a way with music and the pre-show music features cowboy songs.

The show is introduced by Johnny Cash, the original Man in Black, singing the spiritual There’s a Man Going Around Taking Names… which sets up that “Judgement Day thang”.

Whose land is it really?

Can we forgive the sins of our fathers – and mothers?

Are we still fighting frontier wars? Is the Eastern Cape the Wild West? Is South Africa the Wild West?

At heart, Hoss is as serious as today’s headlines and history books. It’s just goshdarn so much more entertainin’!

Nigel Vermaas

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