The UK premiere of The Wolves opened this week at Stratford East. It’s a Pulitzer-nominated piece of new writing from Sarah DeLappe, directed by Ellen McDougall, and forms part of Artistic Director Nadia Fall’s first season at the theatre.
It’s funny, brutal and charmingly awkward. Just like a girl on the edge of womanhood. It’s ambitious, subtle and, at 90 minutes straight through, leaves you breathless. Just like a football match.
It’s one of the most original pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a while – and here are my top reasons to see it….
It’s set in America – we have to call it Soccer.
We meet the girls in their pre-game warm-ups, on the brink of a football match they are gunning to win. This setting becomes familiar throughout the piece as we see them stretching, developing their ball skills and practising their team work in delightfully pleasing synchronicity.
All credit to the long hours they put in, training with West Ham United and working with Movement Director Ayse Tashkiran to get it as slick as it was.
The keepy-uppy dialogue
I’m really trying with the football analogies here, dear reader. Bear with me.
The dialogue is superb – interwoven and overlapping with a rhythm of its own. Inanities on the one hand, serious advice about how to use tampons on the other; strong feelings on everything from Harry Potter to human rights atrocities are aired. It spills from the girls in a way that made me remember the urgency of being a teenager – things you had to say or you knew you’d burst.
It’s a joy to watch the cast pinging the dialogue between them like a succession of well-placed passes.
This is a true ensemble piece, and the performances are a treat from an incredibly strong cast.
As you get to know the girls, the fog of their teenage gossip clears and you start to hear their individual voices and concerns. Known only by their number, they are recognisable characters, yes, but – crucially – not stereotypes. The tropes of ‘teenagers’ are skilfully swerved.
The Beautiful Game
I left the theatre mildly envious; if I’d been introduced to football as a team sport I could actually participate in, rather than just spectate … I wonder if I would really have enjoyed playing it! I suspect I would… it looks like a brilliant way to spend your Saturdays, much like seeing The Wolves.