Waiting for Wolves

In a Tent Productions
Etcetera Theatre
(2008)

Poster image

There is no author, director or designer credited for this production and all three cast are named as co-founders/artistic directors of In a Tent Productions who present it, so one must presume this one hour play has been devised between them. In a programme note they say they take their inspiration from Samuel Becket and the nursery tale of the Three Little Pigs and that their characters search to discover why they cannot find internal peace and happiness. Their Wolf, it appears, is female and is some sort of inner voice that 'resides within.' Fortunately, perhaps, I read that afterwards: my reactions are to the play itself.

Three women sit motionless until the lights go down, then their reactions show they are waiting for someone, or something, to arrive. They pass a thought along between them, give us some lupine huffing and puffing from either side of the stage, parade around whistling the tune of 'Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?', question whether they should fear her and decide that perhaps the best thing is to open the door and confront her. A promising stylized opening that put me in mind of 1930s Auden and Isherwood and made me anticipate some sort of choric quest. Instead, the three start to unpack books and clothes from a suitcase (one book is called 'Change Your Life in 7 Days') and rearrange all the props and furniture. They throw a netball between them passing a stream of thoughts along with it, and then they seem to go off on another tack entirely.

These were not three women, I felt, but one, aspects of the same person, or even perhaps of 'woman' and what they were showing us was the disorder of her life, which even seemed to outdo the chaos of mine! Apart from the choric work each performer also gets a solo spot, speaking directly to the audience. The only approach to dialogue is an interview, repeated with variation with each actress as the interviewee and that is played not between the performers but all facing the audience, the applicant in front of the interviewers in what is becoming a contemporary cliché staging. Is this what people mean by post-dramatic theatre: an avoidance of shaping things in terms of plot, interaction and dramatic situation - or just an inability to do so?

The message seems to be that you have to face up to your own inadequacies and live with them, for without them - when all three actresses strip down to the same off-white tee-shirt and long-johns - you are nothing. Or were we supposed to think of them as stepping out into a brave new world discarding impediments and illusions? If we were, there was no indication of how they got there. Or is the intention entirely different again? There is a running gag, a little overworked, of putting on a shoulder bag and then a coat and having to take them off again, another of never being able to find one's keys, of continually having to have something has been packed. There is a very funny play here about our incompetences.

Playing comedy in a very small theatre to a very thin house is far from easy, especially when you have loaded the programme with seriousness - just let the tongue in check quality come through and this is a great laugh at ourselves. When the cast allow themselves to enjoy their performances this comes through. There is a lovely moment when they are doing a sort of work-out with Cheryl Mayer and Danni Taylor all awkwardness and hang-ups while more comfortably upholstered Kate Shannon is all fluid movement. Even the ball throwing is a send up of theatre training games - these three certainly don't need it to work well together - and though some of the repeated prop rearrangement goes on too long they manage some complicated physical timing with some skill. It is a pity they did not create something that gave them a chance to really act.

At Etcetera until 1st June then Canal Café theatre 25th-28th June; Nice Venues, Buxton 16th-19th June; Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking 8th August; Harlequin Theatre, Redhill 31st August.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton