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Review of Wendy House at the Vault Festival

Cameron Harris Wendy HouseWendy House is the first play from new theatre company Walk The Dog Productions set up by writer Cameron Harris and actress Martha Dancy. The play is a fast-paced exploration of emotional abuse and how our past relationships can leak, sometimes, unwittingly into our present.

Wendy (Martha Dancy) meets Tom (Joshua Manning) and a love affair begins. Tom’s pretty straightforward and seems to be a man who says what he thinks and isn’t interested in playing games. Wendy’s a little more complicated. The memory of childhood friend Hugo (James Robinson) still influences her actions and choices, and at times she seems almost possessed by him. The play’s more subtle than that, with the two worlds colliding and merging and the audience getting a clear sense of Wendy’s duality. One of the lovely things about this play is the delicacy in the writing and the trust from the cast that we’ll catch up with what’s happening. It’s interesting and complex right from the start.

Director, Bella Loudon, has had fun with the props too, and the childhood toys and stuffed animals are used to great, often comic, effect. The choices are fun, playful and complement the themes of the play. Often the cutting between scenes feels super quick – but then again, mostly this highlights well the rapid nature of Wendy’s thoughts and reactions.

There are fantastic performances from all of the cast. Dancy creates a childhood Wendy who is believable rather than annoying and a grown Wendy who is both vulnerable and at times cruel. Manning gives a brilliant portrayal of the charming manipulative Tom. Robinson has the hardest role to capture as the earnest, and slightly dull, Hugo (which he does with absolute charm) – but we do feel for him, muddled by mixed messages and trying to fit himself into Wendy’s life without demands. Why he’s so accommodating of Wendy is unclear – or maybe he’s the ‘Wendy’ in this situation, the lover held to ransom by the fear of rejection or replacement. Should he stay? Should he leave, and who is the real victim here, seem to be part of the debate.

This is a creatively crafted piece of theatre that aims to investigate the contagious influence of emotional abuse. As, Walk the Dog Productions say, ‘Anyone who has a friend or family member who has been in a destructive relationship will be able to recognize the stages and scenes played out in Wendy House.

4 stars

Review by Roz Wyllie

Some people build you up. And some people knock you down. It’s a lesson Wendy will have to learn for herself.
Wendy House is a three-handed play that takes an imaginative look into what happens when your partner is not your best friend. The action centres on Wendy, and how she approaches two very different relationships. Sliced with humour, kids, teddy bears, fancy dress and emotional abuse, Wendy House is a fast-paced and searingly truthful glimpse into how people can be quite mean, given half the chance.

Wendy House
By Cameron Harris
WALK THE DOG PRODUCTIONS
Theatre. 8th & 9th Feb, 2017
http://www.vaultfestival.com/

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