Sunday, October 2

The West – COLAB Tavern

Colab Theatre’s immersive show propels you into a Western, bursting with sub-plots and missions. The story centres around the Mayor and Sheriff’s son who is arrested on suspicion of robbery and murder whilst we also rebuild the town after a devastating sandstorm.

The set was wonderfully detailed without being too overwhelming or distracting. The tavern location was perfect for the show and the saloon swing doors were a neat touch.

Co-written by Bertie Watkins, Ben Chamberlain, Charlotte Potter and the company, the script was bursting full of ideas and kept the audience entertained throughout whilst allowing for interjections from audience members and time to figure out the puzzles. With so many activities going on at once, the actors were excellent multitaskers and remembered which group was doing what. You never knew what was happening next and this element of surprise kept the audience on their toes and excited as to what else would happen in this foreign world. The shocking ending added another dimension to the show and hints towards it were cleverly scattered throughout. I did feel that there could have been more of an explanation of what the aim of the experiment was and what happened in that reality. I also liked the mystery of certain aspects of the first narrative.

The cast of 4 were a delight to watch, with consistent accents, Western colloquialisms and mannerisms. The characters’ concern and energy really drove the narrative and made you invested in the story and the tasks. Their emotive performances were truthful and big without being melodramatic. You could really imagine the three as actual family members as they had an ease and familiarity with one another.

Owen Jenkins’ Sheriff Hank Olver was duty-bound and purposeful with an air of gravitas off-set by a friendly community spirit. Grace Dunne’s character Adelaide Olver, really shone for me. Her portrayal of overt friendliness and cheerfulness as well as her worrying for her son was so convincing. The two perfectly conveyed the restrictiveness and moral rigour of the 1910’s Western world through both their dialogue and non-verbal cues. Sam Skoog played their son, Francis Olver who ostensibly was a convert and began by leading audience members into confession. As he spoke to our group, he seemed virtuous but also had a mysterious air. The true nature of his character remains unknown as he conveyed an innocence with occasional smirks here and there. Chris Keegan multi-rolled as several characters, my favourite being the doctor whose severity and harsh candidness instantly shifted the tone.

All of the actors expertly navigated the story and could suddenly change the mood from happy-go-lucky to panic and urgency. They did a fantastic job of fleshing out the town and the other citizens and as actors, were impressively responsive to audience members.

For a one of a kind evening, The West is truly an adventure full of gripping puzzles and engaging performances. https://www.colabtheatre.co.uk/whatson

Reviewer: Riana Howarth

Reviewed: 12th August 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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