Four sides of a triangle

Actor Jack Tarlton in rehearsals for Chorale: A Sam Shepard Roadshow

Actor Jack Tarlton in rehearsals for Chorale: A Sam Shepard Roadshow

Chorale – A Sam Shepard Roadshow

Belgrade Theatre, B2, Coventry


SAM Shepard is best known as an actor, musician and film director, but his early poetry, music and theatre pieces annunciate the foundations of his work.

Roadshow is used with two, possibly three, quite distinct meanings; one a journey through his life from Illinois to wherever, one his work, and one a psychological mending from abused child to ‘attempting to be normal’ adult.

You could add that the backdrop films used through the four pieces presented add a road movie feel to the action. Actors John Chancer, Jack Tarlton and Valerie Grogan plus musicians from band the Herons! perform throughout.

It is billed as three plays, two films and one gig – but it, over the four separate performances, 2.45 and 8pm each day, gives us a range of early, less-known work. Their link is souls in crisis.

The Holy Ghostly is a short autobiographical play, ostensibly about a man who doesn’t know he’s dead – and waiting for the immortal Chindi to collect his soul.

His son waits with him in the badlands of South Dakota. Their animosity is palpable. Finally, the son shoots him to prove he is already dead. This is strong, dark, challenging work.

The War in Heaven is a play set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. An angel has been sent down to fetch a great man’s soul – but because he didn’t have one the angel is stuck pleading with two angels around him to take him home.

Savage/love is a short and gripping film from 1981 about the contortions and isolation we have to go through to be loved. It features Shepard’s friend Joseph Chiakin whose Aphasia after a stroke inspired War in Heaven.

The final piece is a tour de force – The Animal (YOU) and the one that was commissioned for the Latitutde Festival in 2012 - of poetry and music, varied and wonderfully expressive, full of comedy, anguish, wise words and more.

This one is unmissable is you like Jack Kerouac, Tom Waits and Dylan. It feels like a cabaret show should feel, with so much to ponder.

I am in complete awe of the actors being able to deliver so much material. This is great work and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Directed by Simon Usher th this joint Belgrade and Presence Theatre production runs to 17-05-14 and is then on tour to  04-07-14.

Jane Howard



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