Death Row Cowboy – Smock Alley – Review


The opening scene of the play is a phone call between a police woman and a young man. The man says in a controlled voice that he has killed his mother and a policeman. He freely admits the crime and tells the location of the bodies and the murder weapon. There is no hint of remorse in his voice and little emotion of any kind.

This is the story of Carl Brant, a young man from Jackson County. He was 18 years old when he committed the crime and now five years later, the date of his execution has been set and he’s facing into the reality that he will not reach his 24th birthday. Hillary Reece is the other side of the equation, a young woman who had her life torn apart. She is the wife of the policeman that Carl murdered and so far she has failed to restart her life or to come to terms with being a widow in her 20’s. She has lost touch with many of her friends and is still looking for closure. When she makes contact with a friend who works in the jail, she starts a correspondence with Carl and tries to find a reason for his actions.

The play has eight actors who take on a variety of characters. It is impressive in its ambition and the attempt to create a large scale Hollywood movie. There are a variety of settings and the Boy’s School in Smock Alley converts into a jail, with the balconies around the sides becoming the cells for the inmates. The actors perform in American accents with varying degrees of success but the standard of acting is generally high.

As a piece of new writing, there are moments of dialogue that resonate and draw the viewer in. The motivation of many of the characters remains unclear to the end of the play which adds an air of mystery and leaves you with something to discuss as you leave the theatre. This is an interesting slice of Americana and a brave attempt to create something on a large scale on one of the smallest stages in Dublin.

Death Row Cowboy runs at Smock Alley until August 23rd



Directed by: Gary Duggan

Written by: Andrew Lynch and Mark McCabe

Cast: Gerard Byrne, Clara Harte, Andrew Lynch, Mark McCabe, Edward Cosgrave, Stephen Murray, Brian O’Riordan

Produced by: Tom Dowling

Lighting by: Eoin Lennon

Music by: Mick Fitzgerald

Costume by: Grainne Lync

Categories: Theatre, Theatre Review

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