Will Hartley: 'You think to yourself...there's a new sheriff in town'

  • The List
  • 7 August 2019

This article is from 2019

Will Hartley: 'You think to yourself...there's a new sheriff in town'

credit: Toby Lee

Star of Gun writes his Fringe blog from the perspective of his character Roscoe 'Blackjack' Porter

William Hartley is one-third of Clever Peter and Gun has him cavorting beautifully through twenty-five characters and a wealth of set-piece clichés. Here he writes in character as Roscoe 'Blackjack' Porter, in a studied comparison between the Edinburgh Festival and the Wild West – packed full of more jokes than you can shake a Smith & Wesson at.

The sun has set somewhere south of a town called Durham, and the rain begins to pour down. You arrive in the hamlet of Edinboro, water pouring from your Stetson, heaving too many large valises up the endless cobbled hills that seem to go both up and down at the same time, meaning you are never in the place you thought you were; you are inevitably somewhere worse.

But that's life.

You get off your horse (or carriage, or train, or, if you're madder than three beavers dressed as goats, perhaps the Megabus) and you head to your 'accommodation'. It's a flea-ridden tumbledown room. No walls. No roof. You wonder how they can call it a room. Somehow, the bed is made of mould, there are no facilities to cook or wash… but you give the owner all your gold. They shake their head. It's not enough.

They beckon you behind a statue of a dog who was too stupid to know his owner was dead, and into a graveyard, where you do things you never want to talk about, let alone remember, or have nightmares about.

Luckily, this is Edinboro. This memory will be pushed away by anxiety dreams, of stumbling bleeding and naked down the Royal Mile, quoting half-remembered Shakespeare sonnets, while the locals laugh and throw rotten fruit, and an American A Capella group sing something by Westlife.

But wait.

That's not a dream, that's just the town of Edinboro.

You wander down the streets, a hangover circling your head like wolves around a wounded buck, munching something fried, washed down with fizzy liquid that tastes of girders. Add it all to the list of orangey-beige foods that, like some vertically positioned Dutch shoes next to a female sheep, are clogging you up.
You are now ready to show the world your wares.

You are here to dangle the carrot of optimism in front of the donkey of skepticism.

If you've misjudged, the vultures will circle.

You'll be buried in the sand, while fire ants approach your wide eyes, the traitorous eyes that saw the pictures of the festival and wanted in.

The ants will approach your guilty mouth, which once mumbled the question 'I think that's a good idea, how much will it cost?' into the winds.

The ants will crawl into your betrayers' ears, which didn't listen to the answer whispered into the wind by a black-garbed horseman ('more money than you have, cowboy, and a slice of your soul too'). And the ants will crawl into your brain. The brain that thought this was a good idea... And yet… that brain knows something almost indefinable. Even if it wasn't a good idea this time, it will return another day. Stronger. More prepared. But slightly more full of ants.

But you have faith you haven't misjudged. All the practice, and the work, and the late-night whiskies will pay off. Have faith.

This is Edinboro, there's a festival in town, and you've come to cause a sensation. Make a splash. Strike it rich (or hopefully breakeven; please God, let us all breakeven).

Poor Dolly's got pleurisy and the kids have tuberculosis, and even the horse is off colour (why is my horse turquoise? What did he even eat?!).

You know that this, if there ever was one, is a gamble. Up your sleeves you think you hold all the aces, but you can't quite remember - you might have accidentally put a set of Happy Families or car top trumps up there instead. But you shrug off the worries. You ain't doing this for the fame (you are) you ain't doing it to prove you're the best (you are), you ain't even doing it so you can pretend someone loves you, even for a fleeting 60 minutes in a cave (you are).

You are doing it for love. Love of creating, making, being part of something. You load your gun with risk bullets, you squint into the eyes of the Fear of Failure, and your fingers twitch over the triggers, ready to draw. You wait for high noon, for the sun to be full in the sky... but this is Edinboro, you could be waiting a while... So you settle for a light drizzle, and you draw.

You aim at the critics, dressed up in their black hats, waving their disinterested notepads and their pens with sharp edges. There is the thud of metal on flesh, smoky brimstone in the air, and the sound of paper ripping and ink spilling to the floor.

And your heart swells, and you feel alive. You pull your white hat down, spit into a handily placed metal bucket, and look around. 'Edinboro', you think to yourself, 'there's a new sheriff in town'.

Gun, Assembly Rooms until 24 Aug (not 14), 5.10pm, £11 (£10)


  • 4 stars

Phil and Will 'If you're gonna kill a man, better make sure you do it properly. First rule of a murder'. Gun is a one-man comedy western written and performed by a quarter of Fringe favourite sketch troupe Clever Peter ('fast, witty, clever, stupid' (Guardian)). With a unique composed score, and over 25 characters, it is…