Review: The Wolves, Theatre Royal Stratford East

Sarah DeLappe’s play The Wolves proves a striking piece of ensemble work full of incisive teen insight at Theatre Royal Stratford East

“We should be, like, very very thankful for our liberties you know”

You don’t want to instinctively compare The Wolves to Dance Nation but as far as new plays written by American women about teenage girls involved in competitive sport go, the parallels are there. Sarah DeLappe’s debut play receives a visually striking production here from Ellen McDougall, with some superb design work from Rosie Elnile.

The sport here is football, indoor soccer to be precise, and we follow this team over five weeks’ worth of games. But the focus isn’t the games, it is the young women playing them – known only by their shirt numbers, not their names – the characters being formed by this intense group interaction, which ranges from jokey banter to the deeply profound.

Scenes take place in the warm-ups for each game and are filled with an absolute cacophony of sound as this group of nine teenage girls constantly talk over each other, conversations always overlapping. The general hubbub means you take your pick of topics to focus on, from Harry Potter to periods to the Khmer Rouge, a smart indication of the infinite variety of the teenage mind.

The focus on the ensemble does come at a deliberate sacrifice to the individual and over its 90 minutes, this does become a little frustrating as we glance off some really meaty subjects – jealousy, abortion, eating disorders, even death – without ever delving deep. The result is then a slice of life, but its a mighty engaging one at that. 

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Manuel Harlan
The Wolves is booking at Theatre Royal Stratford East until 17th November

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