Tuesday, 16 September 2014
Theatre review: The Wolf From the Door
Pearce Quigley and Sophie Russell lend great support playing all the other roles as Catherine and Leo travel the country - from decapitating a Tesco manager as a signal to begin the revolution, to meeting flower arranging groups, coffee mornings and self defence classes that are covers for rebel cells.
The Wolf From the Door moves through a number of different styles in its surreal journey, something James Macdonald highlights in his highly anti-naturalistic production. Tom Pye's design, with its garden party marquees at the side providing wing space, and cheap furniture that might be found in a church hall being used to create the numerous locations, is like a pastiche of Middle England, while a screen above displays the scene number and location. In a further distancing effect, all the more extreme or violent stage directions are announced in voiceover rather than actually carried out on stage.
Not quite everything is left to the imagination - the website warns of "brief full frontal nudity" but in actual fact Calvin Demba'slasts a couple of minutes, as Leo's mistaken belief that Catherine wants to have sex with him leaves him wandering her palatial home naked. So there's a lot going on in The Wolf From the Door and, as is often the case, this meets with mixed success. There's a lot of funny moments but the tonal shifts mean the surreal black comedy never quite gets to soar; nor does the play quite achieve the disturbing effect it might have.
Meanwhile a scene with the pair trapped in the back of a minicab as Quigley's depressive cabbie drives them to Bath is arguably the heart of the play, but it goes on too long, and while Leo packing away a huge amount of food1 while claiming not to need to eat seems to have some symbolic significance, what exactly it is remains vague.
Of course you could argue that a revolution, however well planned, would result in chaos, and The Wolf From the Door reflects this. Its ambition is admirable and parts of it - there's a great scene with a pair of Civil War reenacters steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the irony as they insist on staying out of the rebellion - are very memorable. So it's a shame that everything doesn't quite come together, but a lot of interesting work is done along the way.
The Wolf From the Door by Rory Mullarkey is booking until the 1st of November at the Royal Court's Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes straight through.
1Demba must be having to work out like crazy to stay "very, very beautiful" as the other characters repeatedly call him