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The Wolves at Theatre Royal Stratford East | Review

The Cast of The Wolves at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Photo by Manuel Harlan.The set for The Wolves at the Theatre Royal Stratford East looks like a giant vertical duvet without its cover which is slightly incongruous as Sarah DeLappe’s debut play is all about a group of soccer playing American high school girls and their relationships with each other.

At the start of the play, the nine girls come bounding on the stage in their soccer uniforms (or as we would call it, football kit) and start to limber up and stretch prior to their next match. The dialogue is snappy and witty and overlaps as one group talk about genocide in Cambodia whilst another group wind each other up whilst discussing periods and tampons. It sounds a little out of context but it all works and it snaps, crackles and pops as we get a feeling for the girls and their personalities. It’s sometimes very bitchy and often rude and crude but it’s all locker room banter and proves that it’s not only the male sex that acts like this in this kind of team sport environment. On stage and in the programme they’re referred to by the numbers on their shirts and shorts so there’s #00 who’s the goalie who keeps herself to herself, #7 who’s the striker and mouthy with it, #25 who’s the captain and leader and #46 who’s the new girl who doesn’t quite fit in. They’re archetypes but very well written ones.

We only get to see the girls warming up as all the action is offstage which is a good thing as the depiction of sporting events on the stage rarely works and The Wolves is really all about young women going through a difficult time in their lives as they evolve into young women. The fact that they play soccer is just the device that lets them voice their concerns and thoughts during a difficult time in their lives.

So, for most of the 90 minutes (without an interval – hurrah), this is basically what happens until about 15 minutes from the end, an adult character suddenly and unexpectantly appears as the story goes to a darker place and the mood of the piece changes. Whilst I realise that something was needed to stop the play being a little one-dimensional, this misplaced pass seemed to take the audience in an odd direction and the play came to a slightly abrupt ending because of this.

The ensemble cast are all excellent and it would be unfair to single any of them out. Ellen McDougall’s direction of a very young cast is spot on and a special mention should go to Lighting Designer Joshua Pharo whose atmospheric use of light added to the atmosphere.

One of the things the play got totally right, was the overuse of the word “like” by the girl’s which millennials seem to use every other word and it can grate – especially if you’re stuck on the tube with a group of them (and yes I’m talking from experience). In fact, the one good thing that the adult character (in the programme called “Soccer Mom”) gets right when she finally appears, is when she castigates the girls for this modern-day affectation and denounces their use of the word “like” and the way they make every sentence sound like a question!

All in all, whilst this is a very well written piece, it felt as it could have been about 10 or 15 minutes shorter as a lot of the dialogue and situations were a bit repetitive. As I said, the ending seemed as if it was tacked on in order to find a deep and meaningful ending for the play but in this reviewers opinion, it was a bit of an own goal.

3 Star Review

Review by Alan Fitter

Stretch, squat, lunge, kick, the girls are warming up, a pack of teenage warriors ready for battle and out to score some goals.

From their plot of astroturf in the heartland of middle America the girls gossip, joke and wrestle with the big and small questions of our times, whilst trying to remain unbeaten in their high school soccer league.

Sarah DeLappe’s award-winning debut play receives its European Premiere at Theatre Royal Stratford East in a new production directed by Ellen McDougall.

The cast includes Annabel Baldwin, Seraphina Beh, Nina Bowers, Lauren Grace, Francesca Henry, Kristin Hutchinson, Shalisha James-Davis, Hannah Jarrett-Scott, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers and Rosie Sheehy.

Writer Sarah DeLappe
Director Ellen McDougall
Designer Rosie Elnile
Lighting Designer Joshua Pharo
Movement Director Ayse Tashkiran
Music and Sound Ben and Max Ringham
Associate Designer Natalie Pryce
Dialect Michaela Kennan
Casting Director Lotte Hines
Assistant Director Jasmine Teo

The Wolves
EUROPEAN PREMIERE
Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, London E15 1BN
WED 24 OCT – SAT 17 NOV 2018
http://www.stratfordeast.com/

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