This ‘hillbilly gothic tale’, written and performed by Ric Siler, draws the audience into an Appalachian farmer’s world.
The space is small, intimate, with seating on two sides of the stage. A sign with a greengrocer’s apostrophe, ‘tomato’s for sale’, hangs on a wooden crate. The old farmer enters, in his checked shirt and worn-out jeans, and genially offers his homegrown wares to a member of the audience. He is polite, thoughtful, welcoming. His Appalachian accent, Siler’s own, has a gentle musicality and a stillness that makes you want to listen. He tells us that he grows pole beans, potatoes, tobacco, and tomatoes on his farm, and that he isn’t afraid of anything – except women, maybe. However, we learn that he is willing to do whatever it takes to protect his wife and daughters.
The farmer tells us his tale as if he has all the time in the world. The story is masterfully written, the suspenseful narrative interwoven with details about his family and community. Through the voice of the farmer, Siler builds a story like a patchwork quilt. There is a simplicity to the performance, and the type of humour that makes you warm to a person, but the story has a menacing aspect as well.
This show is part of ‘The Voices of Woodstock Fringe’, a collection of new solo plays which have been brought to Edinburgh by three different artists. Siler describes this piece, and some of his other works, as ‘Hillbilly Gothic’. This is his own genre: plays which all take place in Appalachia, and have suspenseful storylines, thoughtful characterisation, and some humour. Here, Siler has created a character with real depth: a gun owner who shoots ‘critters’ on his farm, who nevertheless possesses an intelligence and sensitivity that belies the Hillbilly stereotype.
We feel for the farmer, with his burden and his solitude. As cultural divisions in America raise their head, I am grateful for this intimate portrait of a man who many would dismiss as a redneck. It is pleasing to be reminded that we are all just human after all.
Reviewer: Wendy McEwan
Reviewed: 26th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★