Blood Wild, Rabbit in a Hat Productions
It’s a mosey down to the Old West in Paul Van Dyck’s latest Fringe venture, Blood Wild, or at least the Old West as seen through the “print the legend” prism of popular culture. It centres on the aftermath of a heist as a gang of desperados hole up in a saloon and get to reckoning there might be a sneakin’ no-good double-crossing rattlesnake amongst their number.
Sound familiar? Any suspicions that this isn’t as much a homage to Tarantino’s blood-soaked debut as it is to a century’s worth of horse operas are blown away in the gunsmoke of the climactic Mexican stand-off. Which kind of puts it in danger of feeling more dated than if it had adapted Edwin S Porter’s 1903 Western The Great Train Robbery, Tarantino tributes surely having had their day in the sun as far as fringe shows are concerned.
But Blood Wild is a lot more than that. For one thing, the dialogue fair zips along with relishable cowpoke jargon that is absurd, poetic and instantly quotable: the Coen Brother’s could go prospecting for verbal nuggets here and have enough saddlebags-ful of goodies for several films. And the top-notch six-strong cast, each playing a familiar Western type, deliver it straight from the hip and with maximum conviction.
From the get-go, Karl Graboshas as bartender Slim, hobbling around and endlessly jawing homespun hokum, like a young Walter Brennan, draws us into Van Dyck’s irresistible combination of authentic jargon and fanciful pastiche. Alex Weiner, as the unhinged and nervously suspicious Willie (clearly the show’s Mr Pink) is also great barnstorming fun, and the two of them contrast nicely with Eric Davis’ laconic and possibly halfway decent Mitch, and Eric Baby’s cynically crooked and whiskey-soaked sherrif. Amongst all the fancy men’s-talk, Arielle Palik provides a still, silent oasis of suffering as the mute sister of Patricia Summersett’s engagingly hard-faced, soft-centred saloon gal.
From the outset, it’s clear there will be blood someways along the trail, and the tightly constructed script puts enough red herrings and sleights of hand into play to keep us guessing how, and from whom, the devil will eventually come collecting.
If at times the drama rises to the intensity of Greek tragedy, it’s hard to dodge the feeling that there’s scope here for giving us something even more substantial to chaw on. After all, Westerns haven’t been slow on the draw when it comes to dealing with the big issues: the closing of the frontier myth in The Wild Bunch, for instance, or the racist genocide behind that myth in Little Big Man, or the utter falsity of the myth in Unforgiven and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Still, enough bellyaching. For what it aims to be – an hour’s worth of first-rate Fringe entertainment, expertly performed and beautifully designed – Blood Wild’s aim is true.