The Wolves is the debut play from American playwright Sarah DeLappe. In 2016, the piece had its first outing Off-Broadway and was last year named a Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Drama. Right now, Sydney’s Old Fitz Theatre, one of the Harbour City’s most exciting venues for independent theatre, is presenting the Australian premiere of The Wolves, under the direction of Jessica Arthur (fresh from directing Anna Barnes’ Lethal Indifference at STC).
The Wolves is DeLappe’s effort to shine a light on teenage girls; to give them a voice to share their thoughts with a wider demographic that doesn’t necessarily understand them, and to illustrate the complexity of their minds. DeLappe does so by telling the story of nine members of an indoor soccer team, all of whom we know only by player number. The players are #00 (Zoe Terakes), #2 (Nadia Zwecker), #7 (Cece Peters), #8 (Sofia Nolan), #11 (Emma Harvie), #13 (Sarah Rae Anne Meacham), #14 (Michelle Ny), #25 (Brenna Harding) and #46 (Nikita Waldron).
All of the scenes occur during the team’s warmup sessions or timeouts within the soccer matches themselves. As the piece begins, the girls enter into a discussion about Cambodia’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime. But the conversations throughout canvas subjects of varying degrees of seriousness, including relationships, pregnancy and the housing situation of the newest team member, as well as coping with injury and thoughts about the future. All of the major events chronicled occur away from the stage. DeLappe has chosen to focus solely on how the girls dissect and comprehend those events.
As the play moves towards its conclusion, the girls’ world is suddenly rocked by a terrible tragedy. Again, we witness not the event itself but its aftermath – a scene in which each of the players must cope and process an event that alters the shape of the team itself.
Clocking in at just over an hour, DeLappe has penned an engaging work. At the outset, we see a team of soccer players. As it progresses, we begin to see nine distinct young women, with diverse perspectives on a range of issues and of varying life experience that inform who they are. DeLappe demonstrates that these young women, like any single demographic within the wider community, cannot be pigeonholed and, when one takes a closer look, they efface blanket assumptions.
Maya Keys’ transformation of the Old Fitz Theatre into an indoor soccer facility is simple but impressive. Nets affixed across the front of the stage serve the practical purpose of protecting the audience from injury when one of the players showcases some fancy footwork. Beyond that, however, the nets are an effective means by which to highlight distance between the audience and the world that these teenage girls inhabit.
As a single unit, the nine cast members work as skilfully together as a well-trained soccer team, each individual carving out her own character and integrally contributing to the team dynamic, with Harding filling the shoes of team captain wonderfully. DeLappe’s text never lacks believability and its delivery by this cast is similarly convincing. What it offers is far from a stock-standard depiction of teenage girls.
The Wolves is highly engaging, articulate and provocative, and affords us the chance to experience a new story from a burgeoning writer, working to broaden the voices heard on stage or, perhaps more accurately, to make those voices more fully fledged.
THE WOLVES – SEASON DETAILS
Dates: Playing now until 14 April, 2018
Venue: Red Line Productions at the Old Fitz, 129 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo
Performances: Tuesday-Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 5pm, Matinees on Saturday the 7th and 14th of April at 2pm
Ticket Prices: Tickets range from $33 – $55