Cuddles at Ovalhouse
Joseph Wilde’s first full length play, Cuddles, sets itself up as a modern vampire tale, part myth, part bloody reality. Eve is a teenage vampire; imprisoned by her older sister Tabby, the only person who knows she exists. She lives in a highly mythologized world where princes, dragons, and castles are a reality.
In a room lined with old newspapers, with bins for toilets, and tin foil toys, Eve lives out her fantasy life and waits for her sister, both loving carer and gatekeeper to return. Tabby feeds her jam sandwiches and occasionally opens her veins so that Eve can have what she refers to as “dinner dinner”, the only thing that sates her hunger. The arrival of a real Prince Charming however soon turns their world upside down.
Wilde’s play is complex and intelligent, billed as a response to the London riots and the consumerism that partly fueled them, it also explores incest, imprisonment, and how we are shaped by the fears of our guardians. The problem for Wilde is that the consumerism allegory is almost completely lost under the sheer weight of metaphors he has tried to pack in, which also harms the plays structure.
The main twist, a revelation from Tabby that may or may not be true, only serves to negate all that we have already seen and confuses the characters’ motivations. The portrayal of Eve as a wild, sex mad monster because she is going through puberty is also less than subtle, and while it embraces the folklore portrayal of women and puberty and what happens if people are not educated about their bodies, it comes across as a bit regressive.
Wilde though is definitely sure of his own style, and the play is given confident staging by Rebecca Atkinson-Lord. The characters are also convincing and their relationship is well rounded. Carla Langley delivers a fine performance, although at times her speeches about nature and princes get a little tiresome. Rendah Heywood as Tabby is excellent, walking the fine line between evil queen and tender-hearted princess with great aplomb, particularly with her clumsy attempts at flirting.
Wilde clearly knows how to write strong and intriguing characters and isn’t afraid to tackle big themes. Nonetheless, the script needs to be refined if he wishes to make his point clear, because as it is, Cuddles doesn’t have enough bite.
Photos: Alex Beckett
Cuddles is at the Ovalhouse Theatre until 1st June 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.