Midnight Cowboy

Leo James Herlihy, adapted by Tim Fountain
Assembly Rooms

One of the biggest shows in this year's Fringe programme is Tim Fountain's new version of Midnight Cowboy, directed by John Clancy. It is inevitable that there will be comparisons with John Schlesinger's fondly-remembered, Oscar-winning movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight.

Clancy does a great job of taking us back to the late 1960s with radio extracts about events such as the war in Vietnam; and a soundtrack featuring music of the period with Bob Dylan to the fore.

The two stars acquit themselves very well. Charles Aitken, who was so good in Hair at the Gate, makes a charmingly gauche Joe Buck. He is a cowboy-type from Texas who decides to head for the big city of New York in order to make his fame and fortune as a gigolo.

He may be physically up to it but his business skills are such that after his first trick, on a bed wheeled into Richard Foxton's simple but effective set, he actually ends up paying his customer.

What might otherwise have been an unexceptionable story is lit up by the appearance of the crippled consumptive Ratso Rizzo. Con O'Neill is excellent, almost perfectly covering his Irish accent as this runt of the litter.

The pair become reluctant friends and disastrous business coleagues as it becomes apparent that the only way that they can make the money to escape from their condemned apartment is for Joe to have sex with men, much against his instincts.

Their real ambition though, is to resettle in sunny Miami. The failure of the American Dream is nicely realised as, within sight of their goal, Ratso finally fades away.

The two leads "like a little boy and his grandma" receive strong support from Emma Kennedy and Clancy regulars, David Calvitto and Nancy Walsh.

In recent years, Edinburgh has become the location for reworkings of classic American movies such as Twelve Angry Men and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Midnight Cowboy may not have as many big names but should prove almost as popular.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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