Review by Lucy Holz
A fresh spin on Sarah DeLappe’s Pulitzer Prize nominated debut play, Monash University Student Theatre takes a shot at this female driven drama. The Wolves follows a team of indoor soccer players as they navigate their way through the trying times of being a teenage girl, creating a unique piece that easily passes the Bechdel Test.
A play from New York, the dialogue is deeply entrenched in US history, culture and archetypes. Credit must be given to director Chelsea Jones for having actors retain their natural Australian accents, thus bringing some relatability to a very US centric show.
Lauren Caltabiano’s set is immediately arresting, vivid astroturf flanked by a net and benches, we are instantly transformed onto the sidelines of an indoor soccer game. A tunnel leading backstage provides a creative and relevant way to move actors in and out of the space. Costume by Jessica Mountain is also strong, bringing the show exactly what it needs to tell the story. Costuming is tight and efficient, adding to the world of the play without taking away from the action.
Sebastian Whitaker’s sound design successfully punctuates key moments, only noticeable when it needs to be. Although slightly too soft in volume for the hollow space, the deft mixing of diegetic soccer whistles with fast paced music creates a sense of urgency and underling tension.
Lighting by Fletcher Howell is less successful, as by making use of intense lights shone in audience faces, we were blinded at pivotal moments in the play. Having just received a gut punch via an emotional monologue the audience are subjected to blinding lights, immediately snapping us out of any connection with the character.
The women are strong performers, bringing the lightening fast dialogue to life with believability and ease. Referred to by their numbers rather than their names, DeLappe urges us to focus on the team and their relationships with each other.
Anica Renner is a standout as fierce striker number 7, bringing us the classic bully-like character with a complex and unhappy inner world. Using a dynamic delivery she elicits pathos from the audience, despite her often unrelenting cruelty to her fellow teammates.
In a very different way Emma Batty as newcomer number 46 also makes her mark. Beginning softly and slowly finding her voice, we are always rooting for the outsider who lives in a yurt.
Finally, Lauren Gallina as know-it-all number 11 immediately catches my attention. In a busy opening scene her firm conviction gives us unexpected moments of comedy, backed up by strong delivery and presence throughout the show.
While the performers all demonstrate individual strengths, they are most powerful together as a tight company. They are close, but not too close, with a definite emotional distance which allows them to tease each other with such cruelty. This carefully curated interplay gives us a sense of individual characters while also generating a hyper realistic sports team dynamic. Jones has successfully created a fast paced ensemble piece which is captivating to watch.