Kicking goals in the Blue Room’s 2019 season is the SOLD OUT show “The Wolves” by Sarah DeLappe, presented by Red Ryder Productions and The Blue Room Theatre. Director Emily McLean brings a sensitive and disciplined approach to this play about female millennials who play for an indoor soccer team. Each scene involves the warmup exercises, before the game begins, when these young women talk about their preoccupations, passions, current affairs; and offer opinions, or voice doubts, or admit ignorance to what is happening in the world.

It is such a joy to listen and to watch these young women interact and share moments in this window of the warmup sessions. We become accustomed to their quirks and idiosyncrasies so that we feel we really get to know them during the ninety minutes of the performance. Courtney Cavallaro as #13 has some of the best comedy lines in the play but Cavallaro also intelligently plays with the delivery and physicality so each one is still surprising and cleverly executed. Chelsea Gibson as #02 appears each time with a more robust helmet than the last to stave off future concussions, by order of a very worried mother. #02 has body image issues and is sensitive to the comments of others, which gives Gibson wonderful opportunities to portray the different facets of this affliction.

Molly Earnshaw as #25 has a certain strength as the Captain of the team, but we manage to see glimpses of her vulnerability, and a sense that she sometimes feels overwhelmed, the results of which are evident in the last scene. Caitlin McFeat is a delight as the insecure and naïve #08 who is still trying to understand the big, wide world. Angela Mahlatjie has an amazing presence on stage and as #07 she is not afraid to show the ‘warts and all’ of this very flawed character. We see an aspect of this in her relationship with #14, smartly played by Tallulah Starkie. #14 is described as #07’s sidekick and during the play we see how #14 is beginning to stand on her own and assert herself within this friendship.

#46 is a quiet achiever, just happy to be part of the team yet can be insensitive and thoughtless. Elise Wilson embodies an innocence and resilience that grounds the character with a self-confidence that is compelling. #00 (goalkeeper) has few lines and the character seems happy to be in the background. Anna Lindstedt humbly assumes the characteristics of this role until it is time to show other dimensions of this character in the climax scene.

#11 gets on with everyone and Sam Nerida plays this role as a young woman who seems to be very confident and ready to face the world, yet Nerida manages to find moments of uncertainty and insecurity. A particular moment is when Soccer Mom appears in the final scene. Indeed, I challenge anyone in the audience not to feel the sobbing ugly cry rise to the surface as Alison van Reeken gives a heartbreaking performance of the grieving mother who comes to speak to the young women before the game; the game that her daughter would have been at had there not been a terrible accident. As I tried to stifle my own ugly cry I could hear people behind me sniffling and reaching for tissues, or whatever they could find, to wipe away the tears.

“The Wolves” gives us a chance to watch millennial characters being portrayed as complex people. We are bombarded with messages that suggest millennials are selfish people, closed off from the world as they bury their heads in technology, yet, after watching “The Wolves” you’ll be calling ‘B.S.’ on that caricature. The actors bring humour, intelligence, strength and vulnerability to these characters and the production is an amazing example of ensemble at it’s best. Red Ryder Productions have brought this wonderful Pulitzer Prize nominated play to Perth audiences, which will hopefully remind us that if the world is being handed over to people like the characters in “The Wolves” then we’re going to be OK.

The lighting design by Karen Cook and sound composition and design by Rachael Dease enhance McLean’s vision for this production by observing the rhythm of the scenes and transitions.

“The Wolves” is showing at The Blue Room Theatre until 7 September 2019 though you’ll be lucky to get a ticket for this sold out season. It might be worth calling The Blue Room to go on the waiting list on 9227 7005.

5 stars

Photo credit: Susie Blatchford of Pixel Poetry

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