Pros: A charming foray into tales and music of the Wild West of Texas.
Cons: An occasional forgotten word and pause can distract from the momentum.
Greg Wohead’s The Many Apologies of Pecos Bill is an evening of story telling that would not feel out of place around a campfire. It’s reminiscent of a poetry reading, a trip to Americana and a Mumford and Sons concert all rolled into one. The performance holds its roots and storylines in Texas, but also incorporates a feeling of distance and being very far from home.
It’s amazing how much Wohead has packed into an hour. He tells us two concurrent stories from Texas and slips with ease from character to character as he does so. Initially he uses a few low key props, a microphone, a hat and a journal, to distinguish the differences between characters, but as the evening goes on the characters’ personalities become more defined, and then dovetail brilliantly to allow for an energetic, edge-of-your-seat end to the tall tales.
The evening is paced out perfectly. Wohead tells us his stories slowly and methodically at first, and intersperses pieces of the narrative with soulful melodic songs, for which there is a very skilled musical accompaniment, provided by Mat Martin, usually on the banjo. The stories are gross exaggerations, but they are so charming that you hardly care about a detail such as realism.
There’s no set to speak of as such –bar a rickety wooden ladder—and no stage dressings either, but the sparseness of the stage compliments the barren, open Texas landscape that the show asks us to visualise. There is a wonderful and shockingly effective use of notecards to create a tornado and it seems perfectly safe too – a pick-up truck landed on my bad foot, and it didn’t even hurt!
Wohead is at his best when reading and talking in a calm manner while images are projected behind him. Some of the images probably shouldn’t be so funny – but my gosh, they are. His comedic timing is excellent, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this show is solely for laughs. There is a segment read from a diary, with no accompanying visuals mind, that describes with alarming clarity and familiarity a young person saying goodbye to his parents at an American airport as he departs for Britain. There is a humorous aspect to it, but it’s so honest and sad and rang so true to me that I realised I had tears running down my face.
It’s hard for me to know if I loved this because it was a genuinely likeable and endearing piece, or if it’s because so much of it hit a chord and resonated with me, having grown up in America and moved to Britain ten years ago. I’ve lived that airport scene way too many times, and yet I’ve never heard the sadness of it described or communicated in a manner so a true to life.
The Americana of the piece appeals to me, as does the style of storytelling. The ending is delightful, if not a bit scary, and just wait till you see how clever the inclusion of that dilapidated wooden ladder is into the storyline. The last bits of the show are moving and yet when you see the final video, which should be quite sad, there is something really very funny about it.
The only thing that caught me a bit was that so much of the excitement and dialogue relies on a building of momentum, and there were a few occasions when lines were dropped momentarily, or there was a hesitation in delivery. In most plays this wouldn’t be so noticeable, but Wohead is so skilled at wrapping the room up in his delivery that the dropped words do lead to a slight delay and distraction from the incredible story he’s telling.That aside, this is a great production, made even more impressive because it is a one-man show.
This production has its heart absolutely in the right place. It’s charming, it’s funny, it’s clever, and would appeal to most audiences. It’s full charm though, might be felt most strongly by those watching it far from somewhere they once called home.
Creators: Greg Wohead and Mat Martin
More Information: http://gregwohead.com/