Cuddles at Ovalhouse
The tale of two young sisters – Eve and Tabby – confined to a cheerless, darkened attic with no contact from the outside world, is an eerie enough premise for a play. This creeping feeling sets in through the artfully created, close atmosphere of theatre company arch-468’s Cuddles, even before we are told that one sister is a vampire who will later drink her own sister’s blood.
Cuddles is a short, chilling vignette that explores the reckoning faced by the girls. As Eve – the vampire – matures, her increasingly blood-thirsty tendencies challenge the “dependent and carer” arrangement existing between her and Tabby. The well-portrayed relationship develops as a nature-nurture debate into whether the roles we play in life are decided from birth, or whether they come as a result of society’s impact. Being a vampire, Eve is unable to confront the terrors of the outside world, choosing instead the safety of their confined attic. Her fantasy life is made relatable by references to Harry Potter and popular culture.
The piece plays with our notion of what constitutes a more desirable reality and bends our frame of belief as to whether the entire set-up could even be real. The dingy, closeted world of the two girls offers an alternative, disturbing Netherland. Eve and Tabby’s desire not to grow up means that they shield themselves from their own demons and from the evils of people outside.
New writing offers an exciting leap into the unknown, and Ovalhouse – one of the flagships of fringe theatre, with a reputation for creating and supporting brave, experimental productions – is a venue worth keeping on your mailing list. Cuddles, whilst not quite fully realised, is a good example of the people-driven and inclusive work Ovalhouse presents. Arch-468’s gutsy production is the latest from a theatre company who describe themselves as a “laboratory”. It is commendable that risks are taken in a testing, cash-strapped theatre landscape where increasingly often it is household names and revivals that sell out.
Cuddles delivers on some gruesome sensationalism to satisfy lovers of vampire fiction. However, for this reason, it is possibly slightly juvenile in its discussion, which could have included more interesting coming-of-age topics such as sexuality. It is never fully explored how Eve is a vampire and Tabby a human, though it appears this dynamic between the two girls has been established to consider what makes us “good” and “evil”. It is nevertheless a unique piece of theatre that is well performed, and it perhaps captures a little of what we all hunger for each day: a return to something sheltered and a refuge from the increasingly exposed, unpredictable life outside.
Cuddles is on at Ovalhouse Theatre until 16th May 2015, for further information or to book visit here.