What else can we learn from the Western? It is a tale often told, with stock characters and simple plots. Whether it’s about frontier, fortune, or failure, we have heard some version of the Western for over a hundred years. What does the genre mean in 2019, especially for audiences whose understanding of Americana will likely come from the foreign films and movie soundtracks?
Lone Star Diner does not really answer these questions but does remain faithful to the genre. The play has all the violence of Peckinpah, the dark humour of the Cohens, and the existential pondering of McCarthy. It’s an ambitious but somewhat superficial experience, that does not so much wear its influences on its sleeve as dress up in them and parade about the dusty desert. You’ve seen it all before, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.
June (Billie Hamer) is a waitress working in a nowhere diner under the management of cruel lecher Larry (Adrian Walker-Reilly). She has dreams of getting out, and a past that she has forgotten, until the mysterious Cyrus (Seamus Dillane) shows up with his cigarettes and nihilism. He offers her a life and a freedom she had thought impossible, does something irreversible, and must then suffer both a nosy marshal (Jack Sunderland) and a noisy conscience.
The performances are generally well-played, with a cast of characters that are by turns grotesque and comical. Billie Hamer is brilliant as a young woman who hides a scarred past and is not naïve to the ways of cruel men, while Jack Sunderland is hilarious and completely endearing as the somewhat hopeless, yet infuriatingly overbearing marshal Billy Lee.
The play takes a while to get going, with some rather forgettable philosophizing, but once this is done with there is plenty of energy and wit to these blackly humorous shenanigans. The production benefits from a jukebox soundtrack of modern classics, from Nancy Sinatra to Nick Cave. I especially enjoyed the idea of sins returning to haunt characters, helped with smart production choices and dark set pieces.
By and large, Lone Star Diner does not reinvent the wheel, but why should it? It’s a modern Western, steeped in the lore and mythology of the American dream and transplanted to a stage in South London. If you like your coffee black and the hearts of your heroes even blacker, this play might just be the one for you.
Written by: Cameron Corcoran
Directed by: Mike Cottrell
Box Office: 020 74984699
Booking Link: https://www.omnibus-clapham.org/lone-star-diner/
Booking Until: This show has completed its current run.