ASSEMBLY FESTIVAL, EDINBURGH FRINGE - AUGUST 3 - 29 2022
Guy Masterson - Theatre Tours International Ltd presents Flying Bridge Theatre Company's production of
By CJ Hopkins
Directed by Mark Bell
C.J. Hopkins' 2002 winner of everything returns!
Clowns Sam and Bob shoot the breeze, drink bourbon and hunt the elusive nine of diamonds, while casually dissecting capitalism, sea-lions, western culture, fishing, genocide... stuff like that. Not so much waiting for Godot, more keeping up with him, their window on the world is one of menace, hilarity, disappointment and improbability, delivered with magnificent high-octane comic brio
Directed by Olivier Award-winner Mark Bell (The Play That Goes Wrong)"…this anarchic, surreal satire provokes in spades – or diamonds! 'Substantial, sharp, brilliant, intense!" (Scotsman, Best of Fringe Firsts 2002)
Flying Bridge Theatre Company
HORSE COUNTRY REVIEWS ED22
NorthWestEnd.com 29/08/22 (Kathleen Mansfield)
Roll up! Roll up! Let’s talk car sales, magic tricks, Piaget, coercion and bedroom slippers. If you like your theatre slick, then Horse Country, directed by Mark Bell and featuring Daniel Llewelyn-Williams and Michael Edwards of Flying Bridge Theatre Company is for you.
Fast paced and jam-packed with allusions to well-kent faces, films, songs and writers (Samuel Beckett, Arthur Miller and F.Scott-Fitzgerald come to mind), this ode to The American Dream with all its frailties is crafted for speed and requires quality performers to do it justice. C J Hopkins has written both character, Sam and Bob, with boundless energy and buzz. They spend their time trying not to address the underlying issues of a macho, capitalist society while constantly talking around the issues of oppression, domination, conflict and the rousing qualities of competition and winning.
￼It is a tapestry of ideas: art to reassure ourselves rather than challenge us; words replacing the true essence of things; pacify the masses with what they want; why fixing things is too hard. What have we lost along the way?
How? It’s a question they ask from all angles. Yet they never probe deeply. Is that the message? They ask that question too – what is the message? The dialogue is delivered as the flight of a bullet. Another apt symbol for America. Shoot first, talk later. This play shoots from the lip.
The physical theatre is wonderful with Sam falling on his arse more than once. The bedroom slippers are a perfect choice of footwear for men who don’t adventure in anything more than their imaginations. The simple set, lighting and sound effects make a sparse backdrop to quickfire dialogue. Presented by Guy Masterson – Theatre Tours International Ltd. Horse Country is set to travel this autumn: Savoy Theatre, Monmouth; Blackwood Miners Institute; Abergavenny Borough Theatre; Torch, Milford Haven; Theatre Clwyd.
Get Your Coats On 19/08/22 (Dan Lentell)
“A dazzling series of verbal loops, covering fishing, trained seals and sea lions, the usefulness of horses and children (once both are broken in) and ‘freedom’.”
There’s a long and honourable tradition of shows with two protagonists (usually male) trapped together in an unusual situation. ‘The Dumb Waiter’, ‘The Zoo Story’, ‘Steptoe and Son’, most of Laurel and Hardy, ‘Waiting for Godot’ and Rick and Ade in ‘Bottom’ to name a few. To that list, we can now add Horse Country, CJ Hopkins’s just over 60-minute play, first seen at Edinburgh in 2002.
This time it’s Flying Bridge Theatre Company, based in Newport, to bring Sam and Bob to life. And in the form of Daniel Llewelyn-Williams and Michael Edwards, they are in very safe hands. As the audience enters, both actors are onstage, slippers on, seemingly channelling their inner Laurel and Hardy (also playing as the front of House music), in particular Edward’s nervous grinning and waving to members of the crowd embodying the spirit of Mr Laurel.
However, the cosiness does not last long as the play begins in a blizzard of words, images and ideas which shake us out of any complacency. Sam and Bob, our protagonists, take us through a dazzling series of verbal loops, covering fishing, trained seals and sea lions, the usefulness of horses and children (once both are broken in) and ‘freedom’. And here’s the nub, for all Sam and Bob’s talk and dreams of freedom, they are essentially trapped in a system they cannot control and from which they seemingly cannot escape. The search for the lost nine of diamonds from their deck of cards is as futile as their quest to go “out there”, we get an occasional glimpse and then it disappears.
I was reminded at times of watching Twin Peaks, accept everything you see and hear, then work out your own meaning later.
Both actors show superb verbal and physical dexterity throughout the performance and their onstage chemistry is perfectly aligned. They invite us into their world and we willingly take the trip, which makes the one moment of real violence all the more shocking.
It’s a strong performance for Flying Bridge Theatre and hopefully will have a life beyond Edinburgh.
Come for the slapstick. Stay for the verbal gymnastics. Leave with a free carrot (maybe). Get your riding coats on and go see this.
Bohemian Britain 24/08/22 (Nick Hennegan)
Surreal, smart and unpretentious.
It’s one of the glorious, great things about the Edinburgh Fringe that you can be in the Assembly Club Bar tapping away on a laptop, when Guy Masterson, my ‘A Christmas Carol’ actor and Fringe stalwart, comes up to me and says, “What are you doing? Close that laptop and come and see a play. Here’s a free ticket.”
I first met Guy when Griff Rhys Jones arranged a Dylan Thomas Centenery celebration in Fitzrovia. He’s a great ‘Artrepreneur’ and is presenting this play, along with another… about circles? (I’ll see it this week and know more soon!) So you can’t really say no to him. Plus, in spite of Directing AND Producing ‘Winston And David’ at the Underbelly Dairy Room, (1.25pm every day! Come and say hello! Plug over, loves..!) I’m really in Edinburgh for the art, so its great to see stuff now my show is ‘bedded in’ as it were.
Horse Country by C.J. Hopkins, won all sorts of awards when it first appeared at the Ed fringe in 2002. And I kinda see why. Eventually. As I was given a direct invitation to see this first production, I’d not even read the flyer and it kept me guessing for a while. But two things became rapidly obvious from the start. The quality of the cast – and the quality of the direction. And when they got to the joke about “How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?” (“The answer? Fish. Of course!) it started to dawn on me what was going on. And later, as I was buying Guy a drink in the bar afterwards (See! There’s NO such thing as a free ticket!) and I met the cast and crew, I realised what a quality offering this is.
Bob (Dan Llewelyn Williams) takes the straighter role of the two, but perfectly foils, criticises and lovingly relates to the more clownish Sam, played brilliantly and touchingly by Michael Edwards.
Director Mark Bell gives the surreal show a solid base, with inspired movement and physicality. Mark is perhaps best known for directing The Play That Goes Wrong, so has a deft and talented touch. Which means that even if you don’t get the twenty year old references to capitalism, it’s worth the price of a ticket for the magic, missing playing cards, fishing and sea lions. Oh yes, and genocide. And Adolph Hitler makes an appearance too.
How many brilliant actors, directors and presenters does it take to make a fine, fantastic, surreal Edinburgh Fringe production? The answer is obvious. Fish. No, sorry… Horse Country.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FringeReview 15/08/22 (Jim Judges)
Bob and Sam sit drinking, talking and philosophising while they think about playing cards and much, much more. They are instantly recognisable characters. There is the childlike, scruffy-haired and dishevelled Sam in his dungarees. Then there is the smarter, more cynical, cool and collected, hat and tie wearing Bob. Like all great double acts, they are trapped in a world of their own making and they are nothing without each other. Like Laurel and Hardy, winners and losers, and fish on bicycles this duo work perfectly together and they are highly entertaining.
There is another double act at work; the writing and the performance. For writing that is this good the acting has to be good too, and it is. The talking is non-stop, with quick-fire patter and exchanges that are reminiscent of comedy from a time gone by. The delivery is flawless with supporting physicality, facial expressions and timing that provides a masterclass in acting and theatrical clowning. Fishing and the cowboy scene with wind in the hair and the question “do I look like a cowboy to you?” are two stand out scenes from many that are staged effectively, supported by subtle changes and shifts in lighting. There is even some magic too.
The writing is tight, entertaining and mesmerising. On the surface we have some funny and smart dialogue that can at times feel like a nonsensical surreal stream of consciousness that takes us from one topic to the next. There are snippets of conversational ping pong that seem to make sense but then at the same time do not. But deeper down and between the lines there is a message and a conundrum to be solved. At one point the characters challenge themselves and the audience when they say “we are talking, but what are we saying?” and that really is the central question. We are also warned “there is too much thinking”. Well, take care because this is dramatic art that prompts you to think, to fill in the gaps, and to pull together the pieces and interpret the work in your own way. Where are Bob and Sam in place and time? What are they trying to say? Are these characters two separate people or just two halves of a greater whole of nothingness? Perhaps more importantly what is a “redemption carrot” and where is that nine of diamonds?
Some of life’s most perplexing questions and cultural concerns may remain difficult if not impossible to answer. However, one action is clear, you are advised to take off your slippers, grab your hat and coat and get out there. There’s a world of wonder to be explored, it’s nice out and it’s a free country after all. You should consider making this show your next port of call.
EverythingTheatre 16/08/22 (Scott Widdell)
A charming production of ‘Lenny and George do Waiting for Godot’
C J Hopkins’ Horse Country returns to the festival having made a Fringe First and Herald Angel winning debut in 2002. In the last twenty years the world has changed tremendously, and even within the last three years, it’s clear that the Edinburgh Fringe is a completely different place too.
Sam and Bob are two Americans waiting. “I don’t know what I’m saying, words are just coming out of my mouth” says Sam. On one level, that’s exactly what this play is about, just saying things. Horse Country is rightly often likened to Waiting for Godot, but with much more grounding in place, which makes for a much more enjoyable hour if we’re all being honest with ourselves.
Whether that’s listing sandwiches or remembering vague battles and recounting glorious victories on the field or in business, theirs is an over-the-top American tone. Sam, in blue overalls and Bob, in a red velvet jacket are archetypes clearly defined enough to pass as the basest satire on America and the American Dream, which will probably never go out of fashion. “Isn’t this a great country?” says one, “what we need is more guys with guns, and women without clothes” responds the other.
This is a lively production directed well by Mark Bell that brings out the humour in the absurdist nature of the play and really makes it his own. He chews up the direction of lines like “don’t make something out of it” with strong and deliberate looks at the audience. It’s like Bell and this play are in cahoots, they know exactly what they’re talking about, even if you don’t.
Actors Daniel Llewelyn-Williams and Michael Edwards do a great job of keeping up with the pace of the play, which has the pair bouncing off each other and around the stage, in what makes for a manic hour of knockaround fun.
BritishTheatreGuide 14/08/22 (David Chatterton)
Two American men are sat at a bar table with a bottle of Canadian Club whiskey and a pack of cards missing the nine of diamonds. Bob is quiet and laid-back; Sam is hyperactive and appears frightened of silence.
They are obviously isolated, possibly in hiding, possibly after some kind of incident which may have involved murder. There are also some hints they may be "law enforcement types". Any suggestions of going outside, possibly fishing, may be met with initial enthusiasm but are quickly argued against.
The press release describes it as "anarchic and surreal", which gives them licence to go anywhere with this rapid-fire dialogue, including occasionally addressing the audience. At one point, they, or the author, seem to be sending up the attitudes of people who reject abstract art in favour of more of what they know, perhaps anticipating the reactions to this show.
The performances of the two actors, Daniel Llewellyn Williams and Michael Edwards, are extremely impressive, with immaculately timed delivery of crosstalk that comes at the audience like a machine gun constantly for over an hour.
The obvious parallels to draw here are with Beckett's Waiting for Godot (referenced in the publicity), Pinter's The Dumb Waiter or perhaps Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead, but compared to them, I found this quite mystifying. So while I was impressed by the performances, I don't really know what was going on or what I was supposed to take from it, and 65 minutes of that is a bit much.
UK Theatre Web 11/08/22 (Clare Brotherwood)
American playwright CJ Hopkins’ two-hander has an impressive pedigree.
Winner of the Scotsman Fringe First for New Writing and the Scotsman Best of the First Fringe Award in 2002, and the Best of the Adelaide Fringe in 2004, it is directed by Olivier-award-winning Mark Bell, and produced by the Fringe’s most prolific producer and multi-award-winning director Guy Masterson. A must-see you would think.
But coming at the end of a tiring day I found myself on the one hand being lulled into a stupor as two guys of limited intelligence chew the cud about all or nothing while knocking back the bourbon and hunting an elusive nine of diamonds, while on the other hand being weighed down by the intensity of the piece.
The world through their eyes is unquestionably surreal and comic. I suppose I just chose the wrong day and the wrong time to review.
But no-one can take away the brilliance of the performances. I was surprised to find the actors are from a Welsh company, so convincing are their southern US accents and demeanour.
Michael Edwards, as Sam, is particularly engaging as a wide-eyed innocent, grinning from ear to ear, while Bob’s bored countenance, as portrayed by Daniel Llewelyn-Williams, only fuelled my failing energy.
Horse Country Audience Reviews:
Rich Miller 21/08/22
Both actors are skilful and wonderful. They are bursting with talent. Definitely worth a visit.
Aviva Goldstein 21/08/22
Wonderful, playful, thought-provoking and terrific acting. Deserves more audience!
Fran Leighton 17/08/22
I really liked this show! The actors were incredibly skilled and energetic in their delivery of these two characters who have nothing to do and nowhere to go. The survivors of an apocalypse, maybe? A disaster of their own devising, possibly? The bored, lonely and manic pair devise ways of passing the time. Very engaging and intriguing.
From Edinburgh 2002
THE SCOTSMAN - FRINGE FIRST
THE SCOTSMAN - BEST OF THE FIRSTS
THE HERALD ANGEL- FRINGE FIRST
THE STAGE: BEST ACTOR (David Calvitto)
"A slick and ironic piece of existentialism. . . CJ Hopkins is a consummate wordsmith. His dialogue is rattled off at stunning speed by Ben Schneider and David Calvitto. Their timing is perfection, and Calvitto has a delightful line in fatuous facial expressions. . . A fine piece of writing and compelling theatre." (Jackie Fletcher - edinburghguide.com, 04/08/02)
"A session of philosophical furniture trashing. CJ Hopkins' play is a timely re-examination of the wild, wild West - the 'horse country' - brimming with inverted commas and a post-apocalyptic sentiment that is also in line with the finest of American avant-garde theatre tradition. Ben Schneider's unsettled Sam is a perfect comic partner to David Calvitto's sensible, if slightly menacing Bob." (Duska Radosavljevic Heaney - The Stage, 09/08/02)
"Sometimes, the best shows come swerving at you when you least expect them. . . .it becomes clear that we're in the presence of a really substantial piece of theatre here; sharp, brilliant, intense, fast-moving, made for the moment we live in. At heart, Horse Country is a new Waiting for Godot set in contemporary America; the two speakers in CJ Hopkins' text are off-duty 'regular guys', perhaps policemen, who have lost the nine of diamonds from their deck of cards, and therefore, for all their bluster, don't know what to do next. . . .Their task is to take us on a tour not of the human condition in general, but of the human condition as filtered through the presumptions and values of mainstream America today. . .There's no faulting John Clancy's superb direction; or the blistering, brilliantly-observed performances given by New York actors Dave Calvitto and Ben Schneider, in one of the finest shows of the Fringe." (Joyce Macmillan - The Scotsman, 10/08/02)
"A feral ferris-wheel of comedy, confusion, contradiction, obfuscation and bent-out-of-shape straight talking that leaps out of the room at you and harnesses you to its mischievous mindset. . . All of it laced with big ideas wrapped in deceptively mercurial chattering. . . Quite magnificent high-octane comic brio by David Calvitto and Ben Schneider. . . It is the verbal pyrotechnics of the text itself which makes Horse Country special. . . This is one philosophical nag that looks set to run and run." (Alan Chadwick - Metro, 13/08/02)
"How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb? A fish. Fish can't be trained. But horses can. Just a little taster of CJ Hopkins' new play, brought over from the States by Guy Masterson. . . Hopkins' text is stimulating and thought-provoking. Its rhythm creates a pace that runs on climaxes and come-downs, reminiscent in style and content of both Edward Albee, and life. With John Clancy's precise direction, and David Calvitto and Ben Schneider's well-timed performances, this is a welcome addition to the canon of all things absurd and beautiful." (Mererid Williams - The List, 15/08/02)
"Equipped as it is with the men in black machine gun exchange of Quentin Tarantino by way of Beckett, C J Hopkins's deceptively small but perfectly formed duologue is near-perfect 21st-century pop cultural off-the-record exchange. Performed brilliantly by David Calvitto and Ben Schneider. . . John Clancy's production is the epitome of off-off Broadway skew-wiffly, and hilariously at odds with the mainstream, and much bigger and deeper than the sum of its apparent parts." (Neil Cooper - The Herald, 19/08/02)
"Fascinating. . . CJ Hopkins' two-hander brings the spirit of Godot to America's bars and puts the bourbon in Beckett. It feels like a serious piece of theatre rather than Fringe fluff. . . Brilliantly directed by John Clancy and acted with terrific flair and feel by Ben Schneider and David Calvitto." (Lyn Gardner - The Guardian, 20/08/02)
"Breakneck pace. . . Engaging nonsense. . . David Calvitto and Ben Schneider manage to sustain this extended buttonhole with an aplomb that makes me want to see them as Vladimir and Estragon." (Dan Bye - The Sunday Herald, 25/08/02)
"a dense tapestry of words, woven before our eyes from a wild tangle of threads." (Off New York's Journal of Alternative Theatre and Arts USA)
"Stunning, bordering on genius... brilliantly written, brilliantly acted, brilliantly directed... one of those classics we will talk about 50 years from now." (Theatre Reviews Unlimited USA)
"Provocative, funny and... quite a trip" (Philadelphia Inquirer USA)
"There is something strangely invigorating about the plays of CJ Hopkins. More abstract than Shepard, more concrete than Mamet... casually exacts a world of tense and crazy beings reaching desperately, ambivalently for... what? ... An ominous yet hilarious interchange between two of the most brilliant idiots one has ever been forced to enjoy" (TheatremaniaUSA)
DANIEL LLEWELLYN-WILLIAMS - Actor
Dan is an actor, fight director and writer. In 2014 he formed Flying Bridge Theatre and has determined to educate, entertain, inspire and provoke with his work.
Studied on the Three year acting diploma course at LAMDA; graduating in 2001.
Also became a stage fight director of note, continuing to act for many regional rep companies, West End shows, lm and television both nationally and internationally for the last 16 years.
Associate member of the company at Theatre Clwyd where he met and worked with Tim. Under Tim’s direction, Dan won Best Actor in the Wales Theatre Awards 2015. Dan owes special thanks also to Terry Hands with whom he worked on 10 productions. Dan believes Terry gave him the opportunities and the apprenticeship, which have shaped his art.
Dan is a multi-award winning actor and writer. He fnally started calling himself a writer, having written all his life, in 2013 with A Regular Little Houdini. He quite likes it. That show has won 5 international fringe awards and is currently in development as a feature film. www.flyingbrigetheatre.co.uk
MICHAEL EDWARDS- Actor
Trained at Drama Centre London.
Theatre includes: Kin Baby (Onassis Stegi) Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough (Park Theatre), Counting Sheep (Vaults Festival), Closer (Vienna English Theatre), The Fifth Column (Southwark Playhouse), Bruises (Tabard Theatre), The Emperor Self, The Dog the Night and the Knife (Arcola Theatre), The County (Camden Peoples Theatre), A Hard Rain (Above the Stag), Flight (Brockely Jack), Jekyll and Hyde (Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts and Southwark Playhouse), House of Bones, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Platform Theatre), Michael Jackson at the Gates of Heaven and Hell (Underbelly), The Rime of the Modern Mariner (The Dalston Old Boys Club).
Film Includes: Uther (Northlight Film), 1921 (Loneranger Productions), We Don’t Know Either (Guerrero Productions), Nearly Always (RCA), Fifty Eight (YOCF), Welcome to Nightvale (Redon Productions), L’eau (Nomentum Productions), Tiger House (Strike Films), Denousa (Venetsano Films). www.michaeledwards-actor.com
|Mark Bell - Director
Mark is best known for directing The Play That Goes Wron
g (2015 Olivier Award Winner for Best New Comedy, 2015 Broadway World UK Award Winner for Best New Play & 2014 WhatsOnStage Award Winner for Best New Comedy). Mark took the show from tiny pub Theatre The Old Red Lion in Islington to the West End and various UK No.1 Tours and then
all the way to Broadway where it was produced (in a rst!) byJJ Abrams. While TPTGW was running at The Lyceum Theater in NYC, Mark won the 2017 Broadway World Award for Best Direction of a Play and the show itself picked up 2 more Best New Play Awards from Broadway World and Broadway.com. The show reopens in New York at New World Stages in October as do other replica shows worldwide including Rome, Budapest and Mexico. It remains open at The Duchess Theatre in the West End where it has been for the last 7 years.
Mark also directed the West End hit The Comedy About a Bank Robbery
which was nominated for an Olivier Award and ran at The Criterion in the West End for over 4 years.
Other directing includes:
(Winterfest NYC), La Obraque Salle Ma
l (Theatro Helenico, Mexico City), Che Disastro di Commedia (Theatro Greco, Rome and touring ), Waiting For Waiting For Godot
(St James Theatre, off West End), Ma Este Megbukunk (Central Szinhaz, Budapest), Blue Blood
by Anna Jordan (Riverside Hammersmith), The Revengers Tragedy
(RCSSD, London), The Master & Margarita, Pieces, Cheap Thrills and Classic Cuts
(East 15 Theatre School), A Servant to Two Masters, Scapin
(CMU, Pittsburgh), The Snowfall
(Etcetera), Breathing Corpses, Comedians, Marat/ Sade, The Crucible, Agamemnon, Antigone and The Bacchae
(LAMDA), Flea Circus, George and the Dragon and Fiddlesticks
Uncle Vanya (St James).
He trained at Ecole Internationale de Theatre, Jacques Lecoq, Mark was co-Artistic Director of Liquid Theatre. Liquid shows as actor and co-director include If You Were Mine (ACW), Feeding Time (BAC, 3 separate runs), Endgame (BAC) and Crave (BAC & Touring).
Currently, he also has 2 new musicals in development and is also set to direct his first feature film, From Me To You, for Gold Circle Films. www.markbell.info
C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning playwright, novelist, and political satirist. His plays have been produced and have toured at theatres and festivals including Riverside Studios (London), 59E59 Theaters (New York), Traverse Theatre (Edinburgh), Belvoir St. Theatre (Sydney), the Du Maurier World Stage Festival (Toronto), Needtheater (Los Angeles), 7 Stages (Atlanta), the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Adelaide Fringe, Brighton Festival, and the Noorderzon Festival (the Netherlands), among others. His writing awards include the 2002 First of the Scotsman Fringe Firsts, Scotsman Fringe Firsts in 2002 and 2005, and the 2004 Best Play of the Adelaide Fringe. His political satire and commentary has been published by Consent Factory, OffGuardian, ZeroHedge, ColdType, Rubikon, RT.com, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, and many other publications, and has been widely translated. His dystopian science fiction novel, Zone 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant.
Three Things about Flying Bridge Theatre Company
We want to hold a mirror up to life and expose truth and untruth and inequality.
Good theatre should be “about” something – should prompt a change of perspective, a new direction.
We want our work to inspire others to make great social art, to continue a conversation that we are a proud part of.
Rydyn ni yn awyddus i ddal drych o aen bywyd er mwyn datgelu gwirionedd a thrwy hynny dat- gelu anwiredd ac anghydraddoldeb. Dylai theatr dda fod “am” rhywbeth - dylai ysgo- gi newid bersbectif, cynnig cyfeiriadau newydd. Rydyn ni am i’n gwaith ysbrydoli eraill i wneud celf gymdeithasol wych, i barhau y sgwrs yr ydym yn rhan falch ohoni.