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The Wolves at The Old Fitz - Review

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by Emma Jane Explores (Emma Caldwell) (subscribe)
I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
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Nine nameless teenage girls stand in a circle chanting under their breath "we are the wolves" over and over again. The ferocity with which they tackle their soccer games is evident and any differences between these on-field warriors are put aside in favour of chasing down a win at all costs. Here, all the stresses of being a seventeen-year-old girl vanish and these girls become gladiators for a fleeting moment.

The Wolves is Sarah Delappe's award-winning play about young women growing up in a complex world, coping with life and escaping the outside world for a brief time every Saturday as they line up on the soccer field to play. Do not be mistaken – this is not a play about soccer. The play takes place in between the games, in the warm-ups and in the nets before the girls take the field, and through these moments, we get glimpses of each young woman's personality, their anxieties, fears, concerns and passions. With nine actors onstage for pretty much the entire play, these moments are simply snapshots – we don't get the full story, just a flavour for each individual and are left to put the pieces together ourselves

Image by John Marmaras

This is potentially what makes the play slightly problematic at times – there is no narrative for the majority of the play, simply these pre-game vignettes where the girls at times come across as vapid and at other times deep-thinking and compassionate human beings. When a narrative does come in right towards the end, it all happens so suddenly that it feels a little alienating rather than affecting, but this is a challenge thrown down by the text itself, rather than a comment on the success of this production.

Director Jessica Arthur has assembled a feisty and impressive young cast of women to take on the roles of The Wolves and much of the full ensemble work looks effective, with synchronised group stretching and soccer drills happening throughout the dialogue. Where the production struggles slightly is in connecting some of the scenes, at times the transitions feel a little jerky. Maya Keys' set and costume design perfectly creates the world of the soccer games, with a stage fully covered in turf and soccer nets separating the audience from the stage. Veronique Benett's lighting design is effective in drawing our focus to the individual storylines running through the piece.

The ensemble cast work extremely well together and demonstrate some impressive soccer skills as they quip and drill at the same time. Whilst all are strong in their characterisations, the stand out is Cece Peters, a pint-sized firecracker, as the sassy, confident striker #7. She perfectly captures the essence of a teenage girl finding her place in the world – one moment being ridiculous or bitchy and the next saying something truly profound. Brenna Harding is impressive as the captain #25, who often finds herself being the peacemaker of the group when things get out of hand. Zoe Terakes (fresh from Redline Productions' Metamorphoses), as the crippled-with-anxiety goalie, shows the power of having a fully realised emotional life whilst saying very little.

Nikita Waldron, as the team's newcomer #46, is a breath of fresh air. She is picked on by the other team members at the start for living in a yurt (that they all deliberately mispronounce as "yoghurt"), but her sunny disposition prevails. Sofia Nolan beautifully captures the wide-eyed innocence of #8, right down to the rainbow on her phone cover. The cast is well-rounded out by Emma Harvie, Sarah Rae Anne Meacham, Nadia Zwecker and Michelle Ny.

Whilst on a narrative level The Wolves doesn't pack as big a punch as I had hoped for, the performances from this talented young all-female cast and the unusual structure of the play make it an enjoyable and at times provocative night at the theatre. Most of the season is already sold out, so if you can get your hands on a ticket, do so quickly!
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Why? An all-female cast feature in this Australian premiere
Where: The Old Fitz Theatre, 129 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo
Cost: $33-$45
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