Patrick O’Duffy writes …

In the Texas town of Coyote, a horse quietly grazes, whinnies and then sings a song—a song about a rootin’ tootin’ cowgirl, a flamboyant dancer and He Who Comes to All. And that’s just for starters.

Actor and improviser Rama Nicholas steps away from the improv troupe to perform this one-woman spaghetti/fantasy Western comedy musical, which cheerfully throws a whole bunch of genres into the pot to make a rich and satisfying stew.

It’s the story of Catarina, the sassy cowgirl who lives in a whorehouse, loves her horse Clicka and dreams of seeing the world. When a sinister stranger comes to down, Catarina and Clicka flee to the desert, where they encounter a mystery man on a mission to confront Death himself.

Plus there are songs. And jokes.

Death Rides a Horse is a cheerful, silly and occasionally very dirty show about love, revenge, hoedowns and whores. It’s also a show with a large number of characters, which makes it all the more hilarious as a one-woman show. Rama uses her expressive eyebrows, a few hats and a grab-bag of accents and voices to bring each character to life and easily distinguish it from the others. The characters are all engaging, the storyline is tight and well-crafted, the songs are clever and the raw silliness breaks the fourth wall, spills off the stage and sits in the laps of the audience. (There’s also a little audience participation. Not too much.)

The only real weakness of the show is that when Rama is singing and dancing at the same time, her vocal volume drops and it becomes a fair bit harder to hear her. But if that’s the only thing I can complain about, well, that gives you an idea of how good the show is.

You’d be mad if you missed it. Scooby-diddily-doo.

Rama Nicholas in Death Rides a Horse is playing 20 to 27 September at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

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