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LJ Parkinson - Cowbois Royal Shakespeare Company Interview

The Royal Shakespeare Company is to stage the World Premiere of Charlie Josephine’s rollicking queer Western, Cowbois.

Set in a sleepy town in the Wild West, where the women drift through their days like tumbleweeds. Their husbands have been swept up in the goldrush and have been missing for about a year with no sign of returning. The town is almost cut off from outsiders entirely, with only one drunken sheriff for protection.

That is until a handsome bandit swaggers up to the town’s saloon looking for a place to hide from the bounty hunters on his pursuit. Jack’s explosive arrival inspires a gender revolution and stars a fire under the petticoats of every one of the towns repressed inhabitants.

The play is co-directed by Josephine and Sean Holmes with a cast including Vinnie Heaven as Jack, Sophie Melville as Miss Lillian, Lucy McCormick as Jayne and LJ Parkinson as Charley Parkhurst. The show runs in the Swan in Stratford-Upon-Avon from the 14th October until 18th November 2023

LJ Parkinson in rehearsals for Cowbois. Photo by Henri T.

During the run up the play we caught up with LJ Parkinson to discuss their role within the show.

Can you please tell me a little bit about your role of Charley Parkhurst within Cowbois?
Charley is a neon mulleted queer cowboi on a mission to bust bandits, and it just so happens that right now they’re looking for none other than Jack Cannon. Charley is like no one else in the play and once they arrive the place is never the same again.
What attracted you to want to be a part of the production?
I have wanted to work with Charlie and Sean for a very long time. I've been a big fan of Charlie's work and have been so eager to get in a room where Sean’s directing. We were actually going to be working together on a project at the Globe a few years ago, but we went into national lockdown on the first day of rehearsals so for me this is like coming full circle post that horrible virus.
Not only are you getting to create a new piece, you’re also getting to do it at The Royal Shakespeare Company. How has the process being going for you?
The process has been an amazing journey. The cast are so talented and skilled and we have a brilliant production team, they are the hardest working people I’ve ever met. I’ve got to learn lots of new skills from gunslinging to attempting to tap dance . Working at the RSC has been a lifelong dream for me because I come from a background where having a job in an institute like this felt like a pipe dream and now it’s a reality.. not only am I working there, I’m doing it as an authentic queer working-class performer. 
Charlie Josephine’s script explores themes of gender expression. How fulfilling has it been to be a part of the company and working on such a relevant piece of work?
It really is an amazing moment in my career to be a part of this project. I feel like what we have here is something very special and it’s so well written and superbly performed, I’ve recently said it’s like I’m living in a dejavu. I think it’s because everyday I’m committing my experience to memory. I’ve never been so happy with my work before. I think if you ask this question to any of the other cast members about how is LJ enjoying the process I think they tell you I’m probably enjoying the process the most, every day I’m very excited full of energy and can’t wait to put this in front of an audience.

LJ Parkinson in rehearsals for Cowbois. Photo by Henri T.

How much of yourself have you seen in the creative process?
It's been a very collaborative and engaging room. The casting has been very specifically selective not just for acting ability but also for devising capabilities. There is one particular scene between two characters that I cannot watch without seeing myself and becoming very emotional. I don't want to give you any spoilers but I think any gender fluid person coming to see this show would have the same reaction, it’s so tenderly written.

What keeps you inspired as an artist?
The prospect of smashing through this glass ceiling I am pressed up against the roof of.
What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing Cowbois
There’s a lot of anti-Trans rhetoric happening in the media at the moment and it’s heartbreaking that it’s coming from our country's leader and the fact that the reason he’s doing it is for clout and as a distraction from his failings makes it all the more vile. So, I hope our audiences take away a clearer understanding of the courage that it takes for a trans person to exist in a world where the toxic patriarchy is still trying to eradicate you for daring to be your authentic self even though it does not affect them in the slightest.

Cowbois runs at the Swan Theatre from Saturday 14th October until Saturday 18th November 2023. Tickets are available from

LJ Parkinson in rehearsals for Cowbois. Photo by Henri T.

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