The Life and Crimes of Reverend Raccoon

Sun 21st – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Maddy Searle

at 13:46 on 23rd Aug 2016

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The eponymous Reverend Racoon is played by Gareth Watkins in this one-man show written by Jeremy Fletcher. Half-sermon, half-autobiography, Eli Leroy Raccoon narrates his own life and “teachings” to a skeptical audience. Watkins has an energy and a willingness to engage, as well as a slimy charm as the conman-turned-preacher. But as the plot flies from one location to another, and as saintly spirits contact the Reverend, it is easy to get lost and confused.

Watkins’s Southern accent is not the most convincing, and can become rather distracting. This inadequacy is revealed as part of the plot later in the play, but by this time the listener has been niggled by this annoyance for so long that the revelation isn’t much of a shock.

There are some moments of comic genius, such as Reverend Raccoon’s adoration of JC, who turns out to be Johnny Cash. However, these are few and far between, and the preacher’s over-the-top style begins to pall after a while. Eli’s flights of fancy into discussions with saints are clearly meant to be more amusing than they actually are, and the male voice artist who plays Bible Mary is not very compelling.

Later in the play we get to see a softer side to Raccoon, in the form of his son, Sammy. It is quite obvious that this is a ploy to get the audience’s sympathy, but it does work to some extent.

One of the strengths of the play is Raccoon’s moral ambiguity. He appeals to the audience that his motives are good, but one can’t help but doubt his veracity as a storyteller. Raccoon also appeals to the audience in a more literal sense, using them as cast members in his own life story. A helpless elderly couple, for example, are roped in to be suckers for his sales tactics. This is a rather awkward technique, but in some ways makes the audience more invested in the action.

In the end, this play is successful in some aspects, but the plot is so convoluted and uninspiring that you leave the theatre wondering if you have gained anything from the experience. Some half-decent gags and a mildly interesting main character do not a great play make.

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Zoe Bowman

at 12:15 on 24th Aug 2016

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"I have more identities than I have bank accounts"; this bold claim sets the bar high as Gareth Watkins takes to the stage in Sheepish Productions' performance of one-man play 'The Life and Crimes of Revered Raccoon'. Unfortunately, it is soon evident that the production fails to live up to these expectations. This chaotic and confusing piece tells the story of conman-turned-preacher Revered Eli Raccoon, as he discovers both the love of God and the importance of jacket potatoes -and no, I still don't quite understand how the two relate either. As a concept it has a lot of potential; in reality, the poorly structured script and mediocre comedic moments are its downfall.

One must admit that Raccoon's transition from conman to preacher to soldier to parent is an impressive one. However, the script flows so badly that it creates a mismatch of events knitted together in an attempt to make it remotely coherent. We see a variety of extremes; at times Watkins stands rambling in front of the audience, slowing down the pace of the performance extensively. At other points, it is rushed and subsequently confusing; within the space of a couple of minutes, Raccoon flutters between Mexican wrestling with his son, how he feels about his second wife and how much of a patriot he is. Altogether, the pacing issues make for a complex and frustrating production.

Watkins should be credited for the energy he brings to the role of Raccoon. With an over-the-top Southern American accent and dog tags branded with an image of the cross, this pastor is full of zeal and energy. Watkins' delivery of comedic lines - most of which are admittedly only somewhat amusing - keeps the majority of the play light and buoyant. However, with sudden changes of storyline accompanied by only brief explanations, the script unsuccessfully forces character development upon Raccoon in an attempt to portray him as multi-dimensional. Whilst Watkins has a lot of stage presence, this is not enough to make amends for the poor characterisation.

Overall, the idea of a corrupt man who rediscovers religion in his own unique way has the potential to make for an interesting piece of theatre. Unfortunately, 'The Life and Crimes of Revered Raccoon' is let down by underdeveloped plot lines and an overcrowded narrative.

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