Wolfie at Theatre503
Sometimes theatrical magic happens far more effortlessly in small studios tucked snugly above a pub than on major stages with hefty budgets. Wolfie is a fine example of how a vividly imaginative story and a couple of talented performers bursting with energy can more than make up for the grandeur of a big production.
Written by Ross Willis and directed by Lisa Spirling, the story follows the journey of two twins from inside the womb to the harsh realities of adulthood. Erin Doherty and Sophie Melville – dressed in boiler-suits and with just a handful of props to complement the evocative storytelling – play the protagonists and narrators, as well as jumping in and out of a series of other characters, giving each one a well-defined identity.
Separated at an early age, the girls’ fates take them in very different directions. One finds herself with a deeply depressed foster mother permanently soaking in a bath, the other is abandoned in the wild where she is raised by wolves. The first is woefully lonely but for her friendship with her science teacher; the feral sibling goes hunting with her wolf-mother in a community of talking flora and fauna, but her sense of belonging is abruptly interrupted when she finally grows up and is thrown back into the real world.
Willis’s play is a modern fairytale where fantastical elements are woven into scenes of impersonal bureaucracy and food bank queuing. At the centre of the story is a grave concern that the care system meant to support vulnerable children is missing a human touch, resulting in too many damaged adults likely to repeat the cycle of love (and sustenance) deprivation. Without a stable source of affection (or “sparkle”, as they term it) the girls struggle to live, in spite of their best efforts to fit in.
The storytelling never loses its tempo, keeping the audience hooked. The sense of urgency embedded in the dialogues and the burning desire to get the message across give the play a raw and fresh quality but also hint at a young perspective that is still in some ways unripe. Nevertheless, the surreal drama becomes not only believable but also moving thanks to the full commitment of Doherty and Melville. The harmony between the actors, their skill in creating a solid connection between narration and action, and their ability to maintain a strong focus through the rollercoaster of changing settings and moods, means that the humour – as well as the dark themes – is easily absorbed and appreciated.
The duo’s total investment in the characters and the story is exemplary, and it allows the audience to suspend disbelief readily and effortlessly. A show to inspire audiences as well as theatre-makers.
Image: Helen Murray
Wolfie is at Theatre503 from 20th March until 13th April 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Wolfie here: