The Wolves

The Wolves
By Sarah DeLappe. Redline Productions. Old Ftiz Theatre (NSW). March 14 – April 14, 2018.

What a great vehicle Redline Productions has chosen to highlight the under-tapped wealth of women in theatre! Written by a woman, directed, designed and stage managed by women, and performed by nine fine, fit, feisty, female actors, this prize-winning first play by American playwright Sarah DeLappe raises the bar in the determined pursuit of recognition and equity across the arts.

The nine actors are the Wolves, a high school, indoor soccer team warming up before their games. They are fit, committed, bright. Delappe’s dialogue uses the ‘like’ nuances and ‘like’ idiom of their time, to portray the diverse range of things that concern them, from the treatment of the perpetrators of the Khmer Rouge massacres in Cambodia to the benefits of tampons over sanitary pads to the behaviour of their hungover coach. Conversations overlap, switch rapidly from one topic to another, the pace defined by the various stretches and passes of their carefully co-ordinated warm up sequences. Pauses are limited, usually arising from a perceived slight or disagreement, sometimes tense, sometimes funny, resolved by their observant captain, or the whistle signalling the beginning of a game.

The play takes them through the ups and downs of the season, the demands of home and school, gossip, boy troubles, the gradual acceptance of a new girl, disclosures of personal confidences, an accident that side-lines their striker, and a tragedy before the final match that almost affects the impetus of their will to win. It’s a play of the times, a 2017 coming-of-age insight into the insecurities and aspirations of late teenage women.

Jessica Arthur directs this cleverly written play with the integrity and truth it deserves. The action is fast, based in the carefully chosen warm up routines, timed to each sit up and crunch, each slap of a catch, each smack of a ball against the wall – and viewed through a net that ingeniously separates and protects the audience. The actors fill the space, bouncing words off each other as skilfully as they manipulate the ball. Movement and fitness are as important to this production as the theatrical skills of the actors, who concentrate on fast, changing, physical routines while delivering intersecting conversations that pass between them as rapidly as the action of the matches they must win to get to the nationals.

Arthur has secured a talented cast that has become the tight, fit, ensemble that the play requires. The warm up routines demand a high level of fitness and co-ordination, the choreography as physically demanding and complex as the quick changes of topic and the intensity of the dialogue. Despite this, the characterisations are clear and strong, paying skilful homage to the clarity with which DeLappe has delineated each girl’s background and personality, despite the fact that they are only ever referred to by their player numbers.

Singling out any one of the performers would detract from the collaborative ‘whole’ that they and director Arthur have worked so hard to achieve. Each is in every moment, true to her character, integral to the action, depicting the intricacies and varied dimensions of the characters, whilst, seemingly effortlessly, following the complicated warm up regimes.

Brenna Harding is #25, confident team captain, light on her feet, quick to dissipate any dispute that might affect the discipline and concentration of the team.

Cece Peters is #7, mature, sexually experienced, outspoken, and a bit mean even to her friend, the intelligent #14 played by Micheelle Ny.

Nikita Waldron plays talented, eager-to-be-accepted newcomer, #46, and Emma Harvie is #11, the bright, perceptive daughter of two psychologists.

Socially committed #2, (Nadia Zwecker) hides an eating disorder, and Sarah Rae Meacham is the easily-led #13.

Sofia Nolan plays #8, still a little childish and upset when the nationals are moved from Orlando … and Disney World. And Zoe Terakes plays the tightly-hyped, nervously contained, uncommunicative goal keeper, #00.

Created with perceptive insight by DeLappe, these characters are portrayed with buoyant veracity and vitality. Arthur’s direction has found the enthusiasm, energy and complexity of adolescence in a production that is a credit her sophisticated vision and meticulous direction.

Carol Wimmer

Photography by John Marmaras

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