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Mad Cow the Musical review (The Garlinge Theatre)

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Recently I interviewed Quaestio Productions’ Artistic Director Hero Douglas about their new family musical ‘Mad Cow’. The new piece of writing focuses on themes of animal welfare and industrial agriculture and recently opened at the Garlinge Theatre in Chartham, Kent. It is a rural venue on the site of an organic farm and the Garlinge is branded as the “UK’s first vegan theatre”, offering only dairy and meat-free products in their premises. The ethics-focused musical has found an ideal home at the nostalgic Garlinge, which offers an idyllic countryside setting for this rural-themed piece of theatre. I had the opportunity to review the show on press night and see how the company would confront some very real, topical issues through the art of musical theatre.

Mad Cow the Musical sign at The Garlinge Theatre, Chartham

About the musical

Focusing on the planet-conscious Martha, ‘Mad Cow’ is set on a farm in Scotland, where a well-to-do family have owned the land for many years. With the raising and selling of livestock being their main income, Martha (Halcyon Sheen) really struggles with the idea that their animals end up on the table for dinner. Following a plant-based diet, the main character is very far removed from the rest of her family and struggles to see eye to eye with her materialistic mother and spoiled sisters. They show no compassion for the animals on the farm, outside of their precious showjumping horses, and this causes Martha to retreat into herself, with only her father Rupert (Drew Paterson) to talk to. When her beloved cow Rebel’s (Jonny Hibbs) fate looks uncertain, Martha is prepared to do absolutely anything to protect her friend. Aimed at teenagers, the musical aspires to raise awareness for veganism and provide a space for environment-passionate young people to feel heard through the arts.

Complex issues within a family framework

Whilst the script handles the complex issues at hand relatively well, particularly in Martha’s monologues, the latter half of the production feels reminiscent of the happy endings of fairy tales, with all of life’s issues miraculously solved. In terms of the overall impact of the work, I would have liked to have seen the final scenes better reflect the realities of what it takes to change the minds of everyday people, whilst at the same time still maintain the youthful joy of the current narrative. That being said, the last song was so uplifting, that I couldn’t help but smile at the final scene with its gorgeous harmonies.

Mad Cow the Musical leaflet inside The Garlinge Theatre, Chartham

Musical performances

Featuring a cast of actor-musicians, Hero’s music and lyrics are the most exciting element of the production, with each of the vocalists and musicians excelling in their musical numbers. Various genres and instruments are covered in the 100-minute running time (excluding an interval), with each of the cast contributing to the songs. There is also some engaging use of rhythm with boxes, which adds further musicality to the show.

Standout moments include the string-infused number performed by Martha and Rebel (‘I’ve Got You/A Friend Indeed’), which radiates friendship and becomes a sweet reminder of what can happen when humans and animals work together. A special mention also has to go to Josie Bowbrick, who plays Martha’s sister Lottie. Josie is a multi-disciplined musician, bringing a number of instruments and compelling vocals to ‘Mad Cow’. Bound to go far as an actor-musician, I look forward to hearing what she works on next.

Cast list for Mad Cow the Musical at The Garlinge Theatre, Chartham

Comedy performances

Rosanne Priest plays Martha’s Mother and alongside the sisters Lottie (Josie Bowbrick) and Issie (Lois Odell), the trio bring so much comedy value to the show. The characters feel similar to Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters, but this time told through a real life lens. You can’t help but laugh at their parts in the hilarious ‘When I Find the One’, which mentions both trust funds and marrying rich. Across the show as a whole, the comedy performances lift every scene, adding some refreshingly dark humour to the conscientious material.

Catching the new musical in Kent

In an impactful debut from Quaestio Productions, the heartfelt musical is bound to make audiences reflect on the role of industrial agriculture in shaping the relationships between humans and animals. The music is a standout element, but it is the comedy aspects which provide respite for the audience and balance out the ethical issues at the heart of the story. ‘Mad Cow the Musical’ is based at The Garlinge Theatre until Saturday 13th July, with performances at 7pm daily and an additional 2pm matinee on the last day. Tickets can be purchased via the venue’s Ticket Source page

The Garlinge Theatre, Chartham

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx

*My ticket for Mad Cow was gifted in exchange for an unbiased review.



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