27 March 2019 (released)
29 March 2019
The intimate space of Theatre 503, south London’s home for new writing, has been transformed from a black box into a melting moonscape. Two figures in jumpsuits are slowly pushing at its curved boundaries until a surge of dance music brings the energy up, the houselights down and we meet the Sharkey twins, chatting away inside the womb. Before long they swoosh out into the world, blinking and longing to be loved but their mother will not open her eyes and they are taken away.
Ross Willis debut play is a modern fairy-tale about life in the care system and the human need for love. He sets up a kind of narrative ‘experiment’ for development with the Sharkey twins played by Erin Doherty and Sophie Melville, being separated during childhood. The first twin is brought up by a wolf mother in the forest and the other essentially brings herself up as her adoptive mother (soggy woman in the bath) is too depressed to move. We follow their lives into adulthood, discovering the ways in which their shaky start has shaped them.
Willis’ storytelling bursts with poetic exuberance and the convincing character arcs make up for a slight excess of cuteness and glitter. Finding a way to physically represent ‘love’ was never going to be easy. Director Lisa Spirling appears undaunted by the surreal challenges set by the play, wisely trusting that Doherty and Melville can do pretty much anything. Damp with sweat or tears, the pace scarcely slackens as they fly on the back of a woodpecker one minute and receive the news of a loved ones’ terminal illness next.
Whether or not it is a successful critique of the care system, ‘Wolfie’ certainly paints a vivid portrait of the affects of deprivation and loss. Both actors are extraordinary throughout, transforming into dozens of characters across an intense two hours. It’s well worth going to see intelligent, ambitious theatre in such a small space.