Skull Riders and Blue Hands


207 pages
ISBN 0-88754-413-4




Reviewed by Alan Thomas

Alan Thomas is a professor of English at the University of Toronto.


Skull Riders has received productions at Vancouver’s Tamahnous Theatre and elsewhere, and has been reviewed by leading Canadian newspaper and periodicals. A parody of the Western genre, Skull Riders presents three rogues digging up the famed graveyards’ of the Wild West, pursued by a bounty hunter, Scratch. The final confrontation occurs in a decaying saloon below the Boot Hill of Hell Creek, Montana. Bodyan’s speciality is the grotesque and bizarre. This play crosses the Westem with the self-conscious absurdities of Dadaist performance art: one of the raiders dangles a stream of toilet paper from his rear, another, Johnny Cat, wears snowshoes on his feet and carries his deadly weapon, a killer toad, beneath his hat.

Blue Hands, the other play printed in this volume, has received a production at the New Play Centre in Vancouver and works a realistic vein in its depiction of street life in the downtown of that city. Bodyan enjoys building scenes flavoured with what a reviewer has called “coarse lyricism” from the expletive-laden speech of petty criminals, pimps, and prostitutes. The play pits store detective and police against criminals, but rather than moral confrontation the real feeling of the play lies in its romantic taste for ugly experience. This is manifest in the conclusion, which slides into an improbable and sentimental gesture linking those who have paid their dues in pain, the prostitute and the tattooed, rehabilitated delinquent, the store detective. Bodyan’s evident need to shock protects a disguised, invented romanticism.


Bodyan, Jesse Glenn, “Skull Riders and Blue Hands,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024,