Joseph Wilde
Arch 468 and Ovalhouse
Ovalhouse Theatre

Cuddles Credit: Alex Beckett
Cuddles Credit: Alex Beckett
Cuddles Credit: Alex Beckett

First produced in 2013 at the Ovalhouse, Cuddles by young writer Joseph Wilde is now on its UK tour before, possibly, making its way to New York. Then, this production earned Carla Langley an Offie nomination for Best Female Performance and we can see why, also in this 2015 revival.

In this disquieting two-hander, Langley plays Eve, the teenager vampire being kept in isolation by her older sister ‘princess’ Tabby (Rendah Heywood). Eve is like a curious animal. She refuses to take a bath, does not want to use toilets, and, no longer a child, can't always control her sexual urges and her hunger for blood.

Langley, petite, pale and slightly impish fits the bill with her still-childlike devilish quality that offers moments of intense, captivating theatre. Langley is the real deal here and makes the show worthwhile with a production that is engaging yet also a bit hit and miss.

The story echoing the Twilight saga could be a darker version of Cinderella with its focus on sisterly bond and a happy ending in reversal. Tabby and Eve have their rules that even when things change—and Tabby is tired of offering her own blood to pacify Eve’s compulsions—cannot be easily broken or transformed.

There are some good twists with its Freudian motif and a moral resonance—the monster/normality dichotomy—but the script lacks pace at the beginning and depth towards the end.

Rebecca Atkinson-Lord’s direction is daring and raw as she balances well Eve’s untamed and naïve deviousness, the odd relationship between the two sisters and the glimpse of normality that belongs to a world outside. Unfortunately, though, it falters on the detail.

The scenes that see the two engaged in parallel monologues, during Tabby’s visit to the outside, are unconvincingly awkward; the transitions are not helped by a lighting that fails to remind us that the action mostly takes place in a dark basement. The atmosphere is unaffectedly prosaic.

With the musical Carrie playing at the Southwark Playhouse and nowadays ‘hunger for blood’, this contemporary thriller will find its niche in this UK tour, with Langley as its unusual vampire star.

Reviewer: Mary Mazzilli

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