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Horse Piss for Blood (Plymouth)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Folklore, rumour and rancour combine under the pen of Cornishman Carl Grose (Superstition Mountain, 49 Donkeys Hanged and Blast!) as he winds the fable of the Owlman of Mawnan, conspiracy theory, buried weapons of mass destruction and double glazing into the new Horse Piss For Blood.

In collaboration with Plymouth’s Drum Theatre, Grose does again what he is so good at – bringing to life a story which feeds on local lore.

Virgil Ploy (beautifully understated by Alex Robertson) has been declared sane – free of his obsession with Sally’s Bottom and no longer a threat to his reabsorbed twin. It has taken 10 years but psychiatrist Dr Levine (Gregory Gudgeon nicely bemused as the tables turn) is proud of his work, and keen to return his handiwork to his family and home high on the cliffs above toxic Nancekuke.

That means a reunion with ghastly mother (think a hybrid of Nessa, ‘League of Gentlemen’ and Waynetta) who is a born-again Rastafarian with a secret under her grotty dressing gown, playground bully Dustin and alien abduction-hopeful Iris (Amy McAllister).

Veronica Roberts brings a great blend of menace, myth and mirth to a gift of a role as Gert snaffling many of the comedic moments as she keeps family secrets firmly under wraps and safeguards business with almost unswerving attention – distracted only by her new toyboy husband’s best asset.

Philip Brodie excels as moustached, cowboy-hatted, bootie-wiggling, psychotic Dustin keen to teach his new son his business and under the thrall of his ghastly wife.

Simon Stokes directs enthusiastically but at times the pace drops a gear and delivery is somewhat comedy-driven, stagey and wooden. I suspect this will get slicker as the able cast settle into the new play.

Frances O'Connor’s set steals the show. A brooding mix of industrial piping, tree trunks and gloom transposes the same space into cliffs, lab, mine shaft and family kitchen with a simple change of lighting or focus.

A fun 90 minutes


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