[2011026] Steve Sheehan’s – A Little Horseplay

Steve Sheehan’s – A Little Horseplay [FringeTIX]

Steve Sheehan @ The Tuxedo Cat – Yellow Room Main Bar

6:30pm, Fri 18 Feb 2011

Just for something a little bit different, I’m going to put in my “conclusion” paragraph first – because, if you were somewhat inattentive (as I was) when reading all the publicity associated with Horseplay, there’s spoilers a-plenty ahead. So…

Steve Sheehan is the quintessential quiet surrealist. With a style that is so gentle and considered that it accentuates the bizarre nature of his comedic creations, A Little Horseplay is an utterly addictive vignette. But it is most definitely a work in progress; indeed, Sheehan provides a mobile number in order for the audience to SMS any show ideas or suggestions. It will be very interesting to see how it develops from here.

Right. So… spoilers ahead!

There’s a horse in this show. A fucking horse. Now – the postcard flyers and the Guide explicitly mention Arapahoe the mini-horse; but for some reason I completely ignored those words, or assumed that they were referring to the horse-head mask that Sheehan has been wearing in gigs occasionally. And I really should have known that something was up when the TuxCat StairGuardGirl told me that Sheehan’s show wasn’t in the Yellow Room, as indicated by the ticket, but in the Main Bar area instead – “because of the horse.”

See, I thought she was just taking the piss.

Not so.

Sheehan and mezzo-soprano Norma Knight appear with a set of Dylan-esque cards, each bearing part of a “translation” of an opera being played in the background. The words are utter nonsense, and the occasional profanity has Sheehan turning to the children in the crowd and very carefully – almost imperceptibly – shaking his head in responsible guidance. Just the very nature of his movements is funny.

And then a door opens… and Arapahoe the mini-horse clops in.

Now, the horse doesn’t really do anything – it just wanders along, nibbling at the food trail that’s been left on the floor, and stamping the odd cardboard box left in its path. But it’s a horse – and in this context, it’s utterly bizarre. The horse is lead out again, and Sheehan sits at a keyboard and plays some Liszt whilst telling a quiet – and nonsensical – numbers joke. A bit of Wagner with Knight singing, some horse-head mask antics (trying to stuff the microphone in the mask’s mouth was hilarious), and Arapahoe returns – while Sheehan and Knight sing Lou Reed’s Perfect Day.

It’s all quite surreal.

Sheehan’s been playing silly buggers with Fringe norms for years; earlier shows have had listed curious running times of “27 minutes”, and been staged in quiet venues like the SA Writer’s Centre. This year – besides having a horse in the show, his jape is escalating the price of tickets – from $3 at the start of the season, to a more typical $18 by the end. One might argue that’s fair enough, given the evolving nature of the show; but this $5 night I was very well populated and, even if people left with glazed eyed and confused expressions, word-of-mouth will quickly spread about this show. After all, it’s got a horse.

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