Saddle up for Horse Country, as double bill hits Riverside

Preview by Paul Nelson

TWO highly-acclaimed and award-winning American plays from last year's Edinburgh Festival will make their London debut as a double bill.

Horse Country, by CJ Hopkins and Theater Oobleck's The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett as Found in an Envelope (Partially Burned) in a Dustbin in Paris Labeled 'Never To Be Performed'. Never, Ever, Ever! Or I'll Sue From The Grave!!!' discovered by Greg Allen, Ben Schneider and Danny Thompson will open on March 6 at the Riverside Studios.

Officially the finest play at the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe, Horse Country is an absurdist love affair with words. It begins as banter between Bob and Sam, two seasoned comedy pros, but quickly becomes a relentless, ravenous examination of our behaviour, values and beliefs.

As they slump at a table littered with the detritus of consumerism, their discussion ranges from card games to fishing trips to talking seal acts, and yet everything this hilarious yet ominous duo touch takes on a deeper and more urgent meaning as the play seeps beyond the edge of the stage.

The play has a heavily existential text which takes on themes of genocide, despair, abuse and brutality, leavened with boredom, geniality and humour. It was the winner of "Best of the Firsts', The Scotsman's Fringe First, Herald Angel and Stage Award Best Actor at Edinburgh in 2002.

The play, directed by John Clancy (Americana Absurdum), sees David Calvitto and Ben Schneider (also of The Complete Lost Works) team up as Bob and Sam in this comic theatre ritual that has propelled Hopkins into the top ranks of contemporary American playwrights.

John Clancy, Fringe First 2000 winning director of Americana Absurdum and also director of the Edinburgh hits Goner, Cincinnati (Fringe First, 2002) and Horse Country, is one of America's most idiosyncratic voices who has become known for creating quintessentially American and darkly pessimistic texts about the culture's love affair with authority and consumerism.

Beckett fans (and foes), and anyone looking for a wicked laugh at the expense of literature will beg to witness the inspired lunacy that is The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett as Found in an Envelope (Partially Burned) in a Dustbin in Paris Labeled 'Never to be Performed. Never, Ever, Ever! Or I'll Sue From The Grave!!!'

Chicago's near-legendary Theater Oobleck make their London debut alongside the Neo-Futurists (Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, Fringe First, 2000) with this NYC Fringe Award-winning show.

The Complete Lost Works is comprised of seven 'recently unearthed' scripts, supposedly penned by the greatest playwright of the 20th century. These discovered works include Beckett's first ever dramatic piece: Happy Happy Bunny Visits Sad Sad Owl, written by seven-year-old Sam and presented in its original puppet staging, as well as his last effort, Foot Falls Flatly, apparently written posthumously.

The always irreverent, sometimes plagiarising, and often-libelous Theater Oobleck and the Neo-Futurists have been mainstays of Chicago's experimental theatre scene since 1988. The Complete Lost Works is also directed by John Clancy.

Guy Masterson Productions, TTI & Clancy Productions present Horse Country by CJ Hopkins, Directed by John Clancy WITH: David Calvitto and Ben Schneider; PLUS The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett, 'Discovered' by Greg Allen, Ben Schneider and Danny Thompson, Directed by John Clancy WITH: Bill Celius, Ben Schneider and Danny Thompson. Both plays Presented by Guy Masterson Productions, TTI & Clancy Productions at Riverside Studios (Studio 3), Crisp Road, Hammersmith, London SW6, Monday March 6 to April 12 at 7.30pm (Horse Country) and 9.15pm (Complete Lost Works). Tickets 020 8237 1111.

RELATED LINKS: Click here for The Riverside website...