COTA, Me and Billy Joe McAllister

Review in Issue 14-2 | Summer 2002

Me and Billy Joe McAllister is a Collective of Theatre Artists (COTA) production – a group dedicated to exploring different theatrical techniques. Directed by Amy Jeevons, this was a simple tale of small-town America based on the song of the title.

The cast were uniformly excellent, playing a selection of characters with an easy charm that worked with the style of the piece. Their performances, the set-design and lighting together created a feeling of organic wholeness, invoking the quiet atmosphere of a Shaker world. Colours were used well; there was a sense of autumnal harvest, and the single table and chairs were converted into a shop, a barn and a family home with ease.

But behind the cosy autumnal warmth, storms were looming. The arrival of a young man from out of town sets the daughter's heart alight and breaks her from the narrow life she has up till then enjoyed. So it is a tale of young love/lust, blossoming in ignorance and innocence that finds itself mangled and rejected by the mores of a society unable to cope with real feelings. All these elements had been successfully hinted at with exchanges of gossip in the shop, the father's strong interest in his daughter, and the appearance of the local preacher, disseminating mistrust.

Perhaps in the pacing by the cast, they played the tragedy too early. But there were enough varied moments of humour and real emotion to counteract this. This was an understated but powerful show that presented the characters and left the audience to judge them.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Feb 2002

This article in the magazine

Issue 14-2
p. 27