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BWW Review: WOLFIE, Theatre503


BWW Review: WOLFIE, Theatre503

BWW Review: WOLFIE, Theatre503 The twins are already brawling in the womb and (like Oskar in The Tin Drum) they are born aware of their environment. Not that it makes much difference to their agency in the hard knock life that awaits them.

They're soon whisked away to separate lives, one with an uninterested mother, the other lost in the woods. Both are bright and learn quickly, one from a teacher who sees something of her own missed opportunities in her charge; the other from the flora and fauna of the forest, who are used to such humans being left for them to nurture.

Ross Willis has subtitled his first play "some sort of fairytale" and you can take your pick from many of the classics as the allusions mount up. That's hardly an original approach, but, perhaps it's useful to have something to hang on to as much else is splendidly surreal.

Trees talk, feral kids really are feral, foetuses fight. All in a world of fluorescent pinks and purple, of jumpsuits and jump shocks, of energy and, eventually, empathy. There's pathos and poignancy too and laughs (though, not for the first time, I was struck by how laughing in a theatre can be so split by gender).

Director Lisa Spirling holds on to the rollercoaster driven by her two actors/performers/compères, Erin Doherty and Sophie Melville, who hurtle through two hours with barely a pause for breath. (We know they're actually breathing because almost everything is shouted very loudly indeed - as is too often the case with first plays.) The pair could hardly have committed more to their roles but, if the show is to work at all, they could hardly have committed less - a hat tip to casting director Annelie Powell.

Inevitably with all those Grimm (and sometimes just grim) tropes piling on top of each other, we bump into a cliché or two en route to an ending that you could always see coming (especially if you know Elvis's "In The Ghetto").

I wandered out into the Battersea streets I have known for 30 years, struck again by the sheer scale of affluence all around and wondered about its central conceit - that children can be lost and raised in, indeed, raised by forests. Not in the 21st-century Welfare State, for all its failings, surely? Not even in the Forest of Dean, a location suggested by some accents and my own vague memories of Blue Remembered Hills and the more outré fiction of Jonathan Meades.

And then I recalled the fact that the USA separates children from migrant parents at the border and then insouciantly loses them in "the system". Who can say they are not being raised by hyenas, by eagles, by wolves? And what they do there today, we do here tomorrow - if we're not already doing it now.

Wolfie's day-glo surreal surface varnishes an uncomfortably dark reality.

Wolfie continues at Theatre503 until 13 April.

Photo Helen Murray

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From This Author Gary Naylor