News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Teen tale kicks the goal

Red Ryder Productions, The Wolves ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 21 August ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

I’ve long been a fan of American teen drama. Like most of my generation, my interest began when I actually was a teenager, with the likes of 90210 and Party of Five. Now in my forties, I’ve still got a nostalgic soft-spot for the genre (my recent foray into the world of Netflix saw me catch up on the entire seven seasons of The Gilmore Girls).

So it’s no surprise that the opening of The Wolves, with its cacophony of adolescent banter, won me over immediately.

Penned by New York playwright Sarah DeLappe, The Wolves has a few key differences to your average American teen drama, however.

For starters, this is a story about a high-school girls’ soccer team, The Wolves. Not only is women’s sport at the heart of the play but the ensemble cast is all-female. Though we hear of the occasional male (the coach, a boyfriend), we don’t see them and they are certainly not central to the action.

Instead, the fast-paced script revolves around various concerns. The nine members of The Wolves move from discussing tampons to genocide with breath-taking speed (speaking as a former high school teacher, it’s an accurate representation). They feel their way around big-ticket issues, like cancer and abortion, and then laugh them off… or not. Every now and then someone ends up in tears. Adolescent bravado may come across as naïve or self-involved, but through the chinks in the armour we see young people navigating the reality of life in the 21st century.

McLean’s choreographed drills ensure that women’s athleticism is at the heart of this production. Front: Chelsea Gibson, back: Anna Lindstedt. Photo: Susie Blatchford of Pixel Poetry.

It’s refreshing, too, to see physicality at the heart of The Wolves’ Perth season, which is presented by local outfit Red Ryder Productions. In her programme notes, director Emily McLean remarks on the way the young protagonists “create a dialogue on women’s bodies as strong, athletic and capable.” This is reflected in McLean’s choreographed ball drills and stretches, which deftly weave together theory and practice. It’s beautifully complemented by the part-rousing, part-ominous cheer-inspired electronica that punctuates the scenes, created by composer/sound designer, Rachael Dease.

Portraying the intricacies and hierarchies of the teenage social microcosm, McLean’s cast is uniformly terrific. In particular, Angela Mahlatjie is wonderfully sassy and stroppy as the alpha-girl, while Elise Wilson, as the seemingly unaware outsider, is a poignant figure. The standout, however, is Anna Lindstedt, the “high-functioning”, highly anxious super-achiever, a silent yet potent figure in a maelstrom of chatter.

There’s so much energy and tension in this script – we know something is going to happen. But what?

All I can say is, it’s not what you expect.

This season is sold out but if you’ve managed to snaffle a ticket, you’ll see why this play was nominated for a 2017 Pulitzer Prize.

The Wolves runs until September 7.

Pictured top: the cast of ‘The Wolves’. Photo: Susie Blatchford of Pixel Poetry.

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