14 December 2017 (released)
19 December 2017
Writer/Director Jethro Compton brings an ambitious new production to the Park Theatre. Inspired by characters, location and themes from Jack London’s novel (and featuring a wolf) the narrative is in fact entirely original – worth a warning for those expecting an adaptation of the much loved tale. Set in the wilds of snow-covered Canada, this is the story of Lyzbet Scott, a Native American rescued and brought up by ‘hunter’ Davies, when the rest of her family were shot. Bound to the life and landscape of her heritage, but with a deep love for her adopted grandfather, she is prepared to fight to the death for both.
As writer, director, set designer and lyricist, Compton’s ambition is clear. As the lights dim, the icy wind blows and the freezing cast singing four part harmony pull back the curtain to reveal the set, I wondered if I’d been transported to a mini National Theatre. An entire wooden hut with brassiere has been built in the Park Theatre’s small space with stunning costumes of fur and leather designed by Adrin Puente. Then there’s Lyzbet’s wolf, White Fang, who grows up from a little string puppet to a beautiful ragged and bloodied beast manipulated by two of the cast.
It’s undoubtedly a visual feast with Mariska Ariya giving a feisty performance at the centre of a strong cast. Robert G Slade captures the impotent rage of a dying man, as her grand-father and Paul Albertson’s smooth and brutal Beauty Smith is entirely convincing.
Occasionally the distinctly filmic ambitions feel too grandiose for the space, despite the casts sterling efforts. When epic soundscapes surge as the Wolf spirit departs, it’s evident that some concepts just work better on film. It does seem a shame that it’s restricted to over twelve’s – no doubt the violence was the issue as the humour and passionate young lead with her courageous search for identity makes it ideal material for children. And with this year marking 150 years since Canada’s confederation, it’s a timely reminded of the history of native Americans whose stories and lives have been silenced for too long.