The Golden Cowpat is a show grown on fertile pasture: Tucked In Productions’s Robin Hemmings and Anna Wheatley are accomplished performers, with a show as dramatically skilled as it is impeccably directed, scored and choreographed. But its precision is ultimately its downfall as its too-well kept fields keep the children away from a place where they can play around in the mud.
Hemmings and Wheatley cut a combined figure somewhere between Shoreditch twee and the cool older sibling mode of CBBC presenter. Hemmings is our narrator, farmyard and every character in the kingdom. Wheatly does the music, a mesmerising original folk score of ukulele, melodica, toy accordion, bells and percussion. From the discovery of Betty the Cow’s golden cowpat, on her journey to the centre of the kingdom and through the meddling of cartoon capitalist villain Macky McGhee, the storytelling, characterisation and planning prove both lively and immaculate. Hemmings is especially good at attention to detail, lightly delivering the lovely asides and small moments that can give a story that golden touch of magic.
The adults in the room loved it. The children, however, had mixed views. They sometimes livened up but often just looked a bit sleepy. Children are sophisticated in whole other ways to grown-ups. McGhee is an exquisite, devilish caricature. But it was Betty, crude, cud-munching and mooing, who always got the laugh. I adored Hemmings’s carrot-to-cow-poo ratio graph but stats humour is also lost on the under sevens.
The best section for children and adults alike was the auction of the golden cowpat, in which Hemmings, playing the capital city’s aristocratic Mayor, takes imaginary bids from the crowd in an attempt to make Betty and her owner their fortune. Suddenly there was a sense of danger, of things unplanned and spontaneous. The children loved having a grown-up on the back foot, as the bidding reached well over “an esqullium dollars”, a number Hemmings gallantly embraced into the routine. The show’s stock soared on the imaginative energies of its young audience and when it did so it was at its most captivating.
The Golden Cowpat is a good show – slick, shiny and novel enough to sling on the dung-wagon and take to market. It will go down well with a slightly older age-group than its listing and poo theme might suggest – perhaps the seven to ten year olds rather than the under sevens. If it had a more attentive audience it could repay them handsomely with something altogether more messy; a little more cowpat and a little less gold.