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
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.