Long Gone Lonesome Cowgirls

(La Boite Theatre)


By Philip Dean

This is the second time that La Boite has mounted Philip Dean’s play. The first, ten years ago, was an immediate success for both the playwright and La Boite Theatre, so it is good to see one of Dean’s early plays making a reappearance at La Boite’s new home.

The play follows the story of two unlikely friends, brought together by their passion for Country and Western music. Vicki is the outwardly conventional wife of a contractor who spends more time away from home “on the wallaby” than he does with his wife and children. To escape her loneliness, she has a rich fantasy world peopled by American heroes and Country and Western singers such as Patsy Cline and Hank Williams, whose songs seem to make up the very fabric of her life.

Rae is a freedom-loving barmaid from Toowoomba, abandoned by her latest boyfriend in the small country town of Sturt. Though outwardly very unlike Vicki, she too is totally dependent on men for her happiness, dragged along from one rodeo to the next by a succession of seemingly glamorous.

The two women form a bond through their love of music and all things American and help each other through difficult times. By the end of the play, each has reached a level of self-confidence and self-sufficiency that neither would have thought possible when they first met.

The play is set against the background of the sixties when Australia was heavily under the influence of American culture but, particularly in the wake of the Vietnam War, beginning to learn the importance of asserting its independence. Cleverly but unobtrusively Philip Dean counterpoints the women’s lives with what is happening in the nation, thereby grounding the characters and their situation in a real world.

Though dealing with loneliness and unhappiness, the play is never dark but shot through with wonderfully funny moments and hilarious dialogue. What sets the play apart, however, is that it incorporates effortlessly into the text a whole range of Country and Western songs that are totally appropriate to the situations in which the women find themselves.

Elise Greig (Rae) and Julie Cotterell (Vicki) perform these classics with style and gusto and, because the play is co-produced with the Queensland Music Festival, the actors have the luxury of singing backed by a trio of talented musicians. The result is a real treat for the audience: a very funny play, talented actresses who are also great singers, live jazz musicians what more could you want for your money?

In summary:
If you saw it last time, you’ll want to see LGLC again.
If you missed it last time, you’ll want to see LGLC this time.
If you’re a Patsy Cline fan you’ll want to see LGLC.
If you like listening to a live jazz group, you’ll want to see LGLC.
If you’re interested in the ’60s in Australia, you’ll want to see LGLC.
If you want a great night out, you’ll want to see LGLC.

Who have I missed out? Book now!

Directed by: David Fenton

Musical Director: Helen Russell

Playing until 30 July: Tues 6.30pm, Wed-Sat 8 pm, matinee Sat 30 July 2pm.

Running time including 20 minute interval: 2 hours 30 minutes.

— Maureen Strugnell
(Performance seen: Thu 14th July 2005)