I think living in the year 2023 we’ve heard the word ‘meta’ more times than switched the heating on. It’s a familiar concept, lived-in almost, we feel comfortable in it, come to expect it. Or so I thought. And then the Rodeo Burned Down takes our understanding of meta to another level. As soon as we feel as if we are in the joke, Chole Rice and Natasha Roland rudely–expertly– take the rug out from under our feet. Every expectation is subverted and it is beautiful. In And then the Rodeo Burned Down everything counts, from a twinge of an eyebrow to the added deft tones of Dolly Parton’s 9-5, nothing in this show is put in without reason. It is precise and perfect and so luxuriously compelling.
And then the Rodeo Burned Down features Dale, the rodeo clown and aspiring cowboy, meeting Dilly Dally, their elusive and effervescent shadow, who work to highlight the pitfalls of ambition and selfhood. Wrapped in the meta-theatrical, time loop, thriller-mystery plot, is a queer love story so beautifully innocent that you can’t help by be a part of it, and root for it. I found myself giggling, wanting and wishing to see their story close, and of course deeply frustrated when it didn’t. The tension was built up so expertly that without knowing it I was sat on the edge of my seat.
Rice and Roland’s chemistry is undeniable, it transgresses every character they play, it is embedded in their synchronicity, their choral speeches. All the more made impressive by the fact that Rice and Roland are self-directed, choreographed and designed. Which is such a testament to their talent and working relationship. Their performance had an undeniable rhythm which Rice and Roland conducted like virtuosos.
I would like to add an honourable mention to the pre-show music, any show that begins with Miley Cyrus’ Hoedown Throwdown is a show for me.
I’m still trying (failing) to theorise the performance. Was it an allegory for queerness? Striking chords about queer time and discovery. Did the show go on? I’m still thinking about it frankly and I think I will be thinking about And then the Rodeo Burned Down for a very long time.
If you want to experience the absurdist tender display of queer love and time, catch And then the Rodeo Burned Down at the King’s Head theatre from the 17 Jan – 11 Feb 2023. Tickets are available through the King’s Head Theatre Box Office.