The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward

The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward

The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward, was a critically acclaimed show at the 2014 Toronto Fringe, garnering a spot on several must see lists as well as a 4 Star review from the Torontoist and the title Best of Fringe which it shared with 8 shows. Each Best of Fringe Show enjoyed an extension of its run at the prestigious Toronto Centre for The Arts, giving fans an extra chance to see shows that they might have missed at the Fringe Festival.

The Torontoist

On the surface, this show presents the tale of the titular 19th-century outlaw’s murder—though Torontonians will understandably read more into lines such as “Rob Ford tells lies” and “the Ford brothers were dirty little cowards.” But beneath the carnival-barker emceeing of Tyler Sequin (who’s backed up by pianist and guileless foil Joel Lightman), there are some sobering ideas about the perils of conflating vengeance and justice, and how we can become what we hate when we are ruled by obsession. Geoff May plays Ed O’Kelly, the assassin who is coerced into recounting how he shot Ford, who himself shot ringleader Jesse James in the back. It’s a clever cautionary tale of the cyclical nature of hatred, which when acted on can turn inward—but attendees expecting an overblown condemnation of our current mayor will doubtless be disappointed.

(Steve Fisher)
The Charlebois Post
Comedy, Drama, and Stellar Saloon Tunes
by Keely Kwok

Here are three reasons why you should see The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward:

  • Seamless Mayor Rob Ford jokes
  • Killer saloon tunes
  • Formidable facial hair

…Just kidding, there’s more.

After shooting Jesse James, Robert Ford spends his days living off his reputation until he too (ironically) is gunned down. The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward looks at the situation from the eyes of Ford’s killer, proud Missourian Ed O’Kelly, in the form of a saloon show novelty act. O’Kelly’s tale is one of anger and the all-consuming power it has over humankind. Playwright Adam Bailey has cleverly taken a lesser-known tale and turned it into a tight show with passion, wit, and challenging ideals.

Though it all sounds quite serious, actors Tyler Seguin, Geoff Mays, and Joel Lightman provide performances chock-full of comedic moments to lighten the mood. Seguin, the ringleader of the show, is undeniably charismatic. The man behind the curtain, he runs the show with little winks to the audience to make us feel like we’re in on the joke. Mays’s Ed O’Kelly has an animalistic quality to him. He remains locked in a cell for the majority of the show and paces like a caged tiger hungry for whiskey and personal justice. Though some of his monologues go on a little longer than necessary, Mays voices them with all the passion and fury required to make it believable. Lastly, Joel Lightman is an absolute gem. Though he doesn’t say much, his delivery is cuter than a sack full ‘o puppies y’all! Lightman also deserves credit for the musical elements of the show that not only contribute to the comedy, but also transport you right to the Deep South.

The trio brings energy and vigour to Bailey’s words and keeps you entertained from beginning to end. And if that’s not enough, go see this show to catch a glimpse of some superb muttonchops. Seriously, it’s worth your while.

Mooney On Theatre

The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward (Still Your Friend) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review


The Assassination of Robert Ford

Still Your Friend’s production of The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward premiered tonight at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace as part of the Toronto Fringe. It’s terrific. I predict that it’s going to be one of the hot tickets of this year’s Fringe so don’t delay. Buy your tickets now!

First things first – this isn’t a show about the mayor of Toronto. The Robert Ford in the title is the man who killed Jesse James. You probably recognize “dirty little coward” from the folk song Jesse James. The show is the story of Ed O’Kelley, the man who killed Ford.

Adam Bailey wrote and directed the show and did both brilliantly. The script is smart, witty, and funny. The pacing of the show was perfect. The show is funny but not really a comedy; there are songs but it isn’t a musical; there are serious moments but sometimes it felt like a melodrama – in a good way.

Joel Lightman composed the music, and played the piano; he was playing ragtime before the show started and it was lovely. He showed great comic timing playing Robert Ford. He was good in the fight scene too. A renaissance man.

Geoff Mays as Ed O’Kelley played a man whose life didn’t work out the way he thought it would. There was suppressed anger as he told his story. I have no idea what a Missouri accent sounds like but Mays’ accent sounded like it could be Missourian and it never wavered.

Tyler Seguin was The Host, a dapper man. He was lovely, very appealing with his southern accent and his fancy hat.

The cast all seemed very comfortable in their roles.

The Assassination of Robert Ford is a seriously good production. I loved it.


Mooney on Theatre Staff Picks – 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival

Logan Brown highly recommends The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward. Comedy, drama, and music bring this fantastic show to life. The cast deliver excellent performances, and the atmosphere created in the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace takes you to another time and place. And the fact that the story is based on real-life events makes for one entertaining history lesson. This multilayered show has something for everyone. A must see.

Sam Mooney thinks everyone should see The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward. It’s a perfect 60-minute play. The script is smart, witty, and funny. The direction is spot on, and the talented cast is perfect. There’s great original music, some superior stage fighting, and some spectacular dying. She’s overheard people say that they aren’t going to see it because they’re so tired of hearing about Rob Ford. It’s not that Rob Ford! It’s safe to go and see it.


Review By Jordan Bimm NOW Rating: NNN


This Old West-styled history show features a charismatic host and a piano accompanist introducing us to Ed O’Kelley (Geoff Mays), a murderer locked in a tiny jail cell for killing Robert Ford, the outlaw who betrayed and killed the infamous Jesse James. Wink-and-nod references to similarities between historical gang member Robert Ford and a certain present-day mayor are occasionally played up (especially in a song titled Rob Ford Lies). Explaining the complex chain of Wild West murders that led to the James myth makes the plot meander at times, but strong performances keep the storytelling interesting.

Newborn Theatre

Adam Bailey mixes hilarity with severity for a time-travelled cabaret-esque story of The Old West


I know that comedy breaks tension.  As a writer and also as a human being, I have not only a feeling but insurance that if I find the humour in something really uncomfortable, I can allow people to listen to me, no matter the topic. Adam Bailey obviously shares in this knowledge.  His current entry in the Toronto Fringe The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward strongly exhibits Bailey’s sense of humour, sense of timing and sensitivity to political universals.  Didn’t see that last one coming in a play with Rob Ford’s name in the title?  I don’t know if I did either but, thematically, this play is as strong as it is stylistically and as delightfully sensitive as baby’s cranium.
I remember meeting Bailey during the early stages of his script’s development and he had received mentionable flack for using a title that implied that he was writing a political satire about our beloved Toronto mayor.  I wonder still if that instinct has been drawing audience member’s into Bailey’s show but hopefully they’re delighted to learn that, aside from the odd joke, Bailey hasn’t written a story about Toronto.  Instead he’s written a show about a much more classical political scandal in the style of an old Western cabaret.  The center of the show is the story of the assassination of Robert Ford of the 1882 (1883?) Jesse James assassination.  The show transports us back in time, into an old saloon where we are privileged with the performance of three different versions of the event.  The result is a highly performative hour of story telling between an emcee, a piano player and Ed O’Kelley, Robert Ford’s murderer. Notably, not only is the story interesting and the theatrics are spectacular but Ed O’Kelley’s justification of his own actions is actually quite emotional and serves as really brilliant thematic glue to the narrative backbone of the piece.  Through it we’re exposed to timeless, universal political pressures while Bailey’s comedic flare reduces the dogmatism that ordinarily arises in shows about that very topic into virtual nonexistance.  The arc of Ed O’Kelley’s vulnerability is mesmerizing and gripping.  The emcee and pianist are brilliantly used to cushion his tension. This is a piece that has found balance through theatricality. It is a mastery of harmonies and a rhythmic delight.  Don’t miss it this week at the Toronto Fringe Festival.


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