Wolves Are Coming For You at the Jack Studio Theatre | Review

A week is a long time in politics but a day can be a long time in life. Let me explain. What comes to mind if I were to say the following dates? 9th September, 11th November, 7th July, 4th September? Okay, the last one is my birthday, but this all proves my point that one day can change the world. This thought is the main premise of Joel Horwood’s play Wolves are Coming For You, which has just opened at the Jack Studio Theatre.

Wolves are Coming For YouOver the millennia, rural village life doesn’t change that much. The sun rises, the farmers tend their crops and livestock, the village school teaches the village children, the vicar sees to the villager’s spiritual well-being and the village policeman keeps everyone safe. But in reality, the village, in the heart of the country, is simply an oasis of calm civilisation surrounded by a world of wildness that is always watching and waiting to reclaim the village for itself. On this one day, as village life moves in its well-ordered and predictable way, someone sees a wolf in the distance and suddenly the comfortable, predictable life of the villagers is put in grave peril. How will they respond to this threat to their very existence?

Now I’m going to be very honest. My first thought on leaving the theatre after Wolves are Coming For You was to wonder what exactly I had seen. Joel Horwood has not written the easiest play to fully comprehend. For a start, there is a strange mixture of writing styles. In parts, it feels very simple, sort of Jackanory meets Play School as the actors introduce characters and tell the audience what is happening. Then, after the introduction, the first act consists of interlocking scenes between pairs of characters, appearing in two consecutive scenes (with the daughter from the first scene appearing in the last). All well and good so far, and I settled down to the second act ready for more of the same. But the writing style changed again and we were back to the narration and more conventional scenes which followed linearly rather than by character. Horwood has populated the village with a group of people that would not seem out of place in Ambridge – vicar, teacher, angst-driven child, brooding traveller, position obsessed village snob, etc – all played by two actors, and more of them in a moment. The problem is that not a lot seems to happen. I had an almost “Waiting for Godot” feel by the end. Sort of, is it me that’s missed something profound, or did very little actually happen? Despite the excellent acting, I just didn’t feel any real sense of suspense about the elusive wolves. There are also some massive gaps in logic that jump out. For example, the phone in the village hall is cut off so the Policeman can’t call for help. But the hall is next door to the pub which probably had a working phone, and speaking of phones this seemed to be the only place in the UK where not one of the mobile phone providers was able to provide even a single bar’s worth of a signal.

Okay, the writing didn’t really do it for me on a few levels but what of the production itself? Hats off to Brigid Lohrey and Grace Cookey-Gam, who performed every character in the village with style. Whether a late seventies woman with what looked like early dementia, a Texan line dancer (with a very funny accent), or the vicar and his teacher wife and their rather stale relationship, Lohrey and Cookey-Gam gave them life and a specific place in the village hierarchy. Director Kate Bannister showed excellent restraint, relying on the fine skills of the actors rather than complicated costume changes to move between characters. Karl Swinyard’s deceptively simple set uses video projection and gentle changes of level, along with Philip Matejschuk’s sound design and Robbie Butler’s lighting, to provide the various areas of the village and its surroundings to great effect, giving Bannister and her actors’ plenty of room in which to populate the village.

Overall then, I’m still in a bit of a quandary about Wolves are Coming For You. Whilst the production itself was very good and reached the high standard we have come to expect from the Jack’s in-house team, there was something about the story that just didn’t gel for me. Everywhere I’ve looked they say the same thing about the play, “Set over one extraordinary day in an ordinary village, Wolves Are Coming For You explores just how much wild we’re comfortable with. A celebration of storytelling and community.” I can understand part of that, but I still find myself worried that I have stupidly missed something, and that’s not how I want to feel when leaving a show.

3 Star Review

Review by Terry Eastham

Someone has seen a wolf. Where did it come from? How many are there? Someone must be able to do something about them. Otherwise, how will our children get to school? And how will we all get to line-dancing in the village hall?

Set over one extraordinary day in an ordinary village, Wolves Are Coming For You explores just how much wild we’re comfortable with.

A celebration of storytelling and community, this production is produced by the Jack’s in-house team.

WOLVES ARE COMING FOR YOU
by Joel Horwood
produced by The Jack Studio Theatre
https://brockleyjack.co.uk/

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