By Rosie Niven
When Sarah DeLappe's Pulitzer-nominated play The Wolves opened at the Old Fitz Theatre last year, it was met with a positive response to the presence of unfiltered, young female voices that audiences have been asking for. Paired with a cast of talented young women, this story of the ups and downs of an indoor soccer team across a single season was destined for success. So when I heard that Belvoir was taking on the production for an encore season (with eight of the nine original cast members), I was incredibly excited to see just what the hype was about.
When the lights come up on Under 17s indoor soccer team The Wolves, the first thing we are struck with is the incredible amount of energy radiating from the cast of 9. With each rapid new thought we are pulled directly into their world, listening in on discussions about everything from tampons, to the Khmer Rouge, to whether or not the new girl lives in a yoghurt (a yurt). Throughout this 80 minute production, we are treated to a world in which girls can be girls in any form, with uninhibited conversations informed by no one but themselves.
While the energy is infectious and the discussions engaging, the cacophony of voices often drowns out the individual conversations, especially when sitting further back in the audience. Much of the opening dialogue was lost, and audience members in the back half of the theatre were left wondering what was happening when the front half erupted into laughter. This created a distance that hindered parts of the audience from fully immersing themselves in the story.
Designer Maya Keys uses every tool in her arsenal to create a realistic set reminiscent of an indoor soccer pitch, with the bright green Astroturf radiating underneath the bright white lights you'd find at your local sports ground. The set is simple, yet effective, allowing the cast a large enough space to perform soccer drills as a team, and surrounded by a single black net that immediately separates the audience from the young girls. It feels as if we are on the outside looking in, watching each life unfold in an Air Dome bubble in the suburbs.
The main downfall in this vivacious work is the size of the space - while Belvoir's Upstairs Theatre feels closer to the indoor court where the girls play, it loses the intimacy and immediacy that DeLappe's text desperately requires. It is clear that Director Jessica Arthur's vision was intended for a much smaller space.
The Wolves presents the audience with an important story - it is not particularly unique, but it is not meant to be. It creates a space that allows women to show their strength, to show off their bodies without sexualisation, to think freely, and to exist without being defined by a man. In The Wolves, each of these women are not labelled as sisters, daughters, girlfriends. They are whoever they want to be - and that is the theatre that Australia needs.
Photo Credit: Brett Boardman
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.