Cow (2 stars)

This article is from 2017


One woman and her friendly bovine

Cow is, technically, a one-woman show written and performed by Jessica Barker-Wren. That description doesn't quite do justice to the large fluffy model of a Highland cow that performs admirably as the co-star of the piece.

That's not to denigrate Barker-Wren's performance as Bethan, a slightly frazzled farmer's daughter struggling to come to terms with her mother's death. Rather, the expressionless face of this bovine mannequin is a canvas onto which Bethan can project her own anxieties.

Cow shows us Bethan returning from London to take over her parents' farm and struggling in the process. A mixture of high intensity dance, monologues and songs mingle together to tell her story.

Barker-Wren's voice is the strongest part of the show. Sweet and mournful, it could have been custom-built for evoking a lonely rural life. Her moments of song provide emotive punctuation throughout.

The same can't be said for the rest of the show. Much of the narrative is, at best, mundane. Bethan's interaction with a series of rural stereotypes is repetitive and tedious. By the time the show reaches what should have been an emotional climax, it's almost impossible to feel invested in Bethan's tribulations.

Underbelly Cowgate, until 27 Aug (not 16), 1.30 pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10).


  • 2 stars

Jessica Barker-Wren ‘Hi, why've I got a cow? Why've you got a…/What is that?/A snake dog? This is just a casual rural situation: I'm a farmer's daughter, looking to acquire a tractor… I think I've got a handle on things.’ A tragicomedy with music, set in rural Devon about a girl, a cow and the ways we ask for help. From…