Wolves Are Coming For You at the Jack Studio Theatre

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

Brigid Lohrey and Grace Cookey-Gam portray an entire village between them. To an extent, the production relies on what a family show I saw a few years ago referred to as ‘CGI’ – collective group imagination. But then, at least to begin with, there is a lot of context that is spoon-fed to the audience. I’m not critical of this approach – after all, knowledge is power, and isn’t rather different from some other productions that use elaborate stage directions, from which the audience is left to work out for themselves what precisely is happening.

Wolves Are Coming For You at the Jack Studio Theatre

The mysterious bits do follow, however, not helped by a local policeman who, not usually having much in the way of crime-solving to do in a village that largely polices itself as more or less everyone knows more or less everyone else, is quickly out of his depth when a suspected wolf sighting by an 11-year-old schoolgirl known to the community as someone with a vivid imagination becomes something taken much more seriously.

The on-stage projections are good, giving, for instance, an appropriate feel of spookiness that only comes with being out of doors in secluded woodland at night. I say this at the risk of majoring on the minor, but occasionally scenes could have been better lit, to portray the harsh strip fluorescent lighting commonplace in school classrooms, or a scene involving the local vicar and his wife having a deep and meaningful conversation outside after dark, which would have meant they could barely be seen at all.

Characters do have names, though I will refrain from using them here as Lohrey and Cookey-Gam are referred to in the (online) programme merely as ‘Player One’ and ‘Player Two’. Changing between different characters often involves some simple but effective (sorry) costume changes – if you’ve ever seen the stage production of The 39 Steps, it’s along those lines. Although unhurried, the play covers several narratives in under two hours, and it’s difficult, thinking about it, to conclude decisively which the ‘main’ one is.

It’s possible to appreciate the show at face value – a tale about dangerous creatures that pose a danger to the community. There are underlying themes, however, that make the production multi-layered. When a group continues their line-dancing class in the village hall, with music blaring in such a way that the dancers are oblivious to the growing panic and concern elsewhere in the village, one can make all sorts of comparisons about a ‘business as usual’ approach being conducted, blissfully unaware of potential trouble ahead.

An unusual number of interesting and distinct characters form part of this community – one man lives an eccentric life in a caravan. A teacher wonders if she is any good at her job, before harshly criticising a pupil’s aspirations for the future. An older lady continues to run a farm despite a noticeable decline in mental health. All this is, of course, better than having characters so bland that one wonders why they were written in the first place. It also, admittedly, makes for good theatre.

Some of the village people – so to speak – are stereotypes: there’s the youngster who causes mischief in an attempt to garner attention, and the angsty parent who tersely demands things are done their way, immediately, with no regard to warnings from those who know better. But, these are also recognisable characters, which makes the story, allegorical as it is, accessible. A thoughtful and pleasant experience, with bold and confident acting throughout.

4 Stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

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.

by Joel Horwood
produced by The Jack Studio Theatre

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