REVIEW: Cow, Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh Festival ✭✭✭

Jessica Baker Wren in Cow at Edinburgh Fringe
Jessica Baker Wren in Cow at Edinburgh Fringe

Underbelly Cowgate
Three stars

It is hard not to like a show featuring a large red cow. Like a modern-day fairytale, Jessica Barker-Wren and Lucy Wray’s engaging new one-woman play, Cow, tells us the story of Bethan, a young woman who has come to market to find a tractor for the family farm, with her best friend, Friendly the cow, in tow. It soon emerges that she fled Devon for a job in London but has been forced to return to help her father after the death of her mother. Played by the talented Jessica Barker-Wren, she takes us through her return home and the often funny encounters with people from her youth on her quest around Yeoford market.

Bethan is a great character: smart, funny and – just like her bovine friend ostracised by the herd – very lonely. Occasionally breaking into song, Bethan tells us about her new life in Devon and the joys of corralling quails and wielding a chainsaw to cut up wood. Sharply written and winningly performed by Barker-Wren, the play provides plenty of laughs and visually memorable moments, sometimes verging on unashamed silliness, which contrasts with a sadness that hangs over Bethan.

Directed by Lucy Wray, the drama moves towards a devastating climax which feels rather sudden and unexpectedly dark and gothic, but that does not detract too much from the pleasures of this rural tragicomedy and the delights of Barker-Wren’s somewhat bonkers Bethan.

Running to August 27, 2017

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