The Wolves of Erin – Old Red Lion Theatre, London

Writer: Ed Hartland

Director: Stuart Vincent

Reviewer: Tom Finch

On a rainy night, in an old barn somewhere in the woods of County Tyrone, sometime during the Troubles, a Welsh Soldier has taken a man hostage. When a young woman arrives the balance of power shifts and no one can be trusted.

And so begins Stack 10 Theatre’s production as part of the superb London Horror Festival. It does start well and the ghostly music and eerie runes scattered around the walls of the stage (more on them later) set the scene for a real frightfest. It’s a shame that this is lost a few minutes after the dialogue gets going.

Ed Hartland’s script does at times ramp up the suspense but for the most part it seems that there isn’t enough story to fill the hour-long running time. Therefore the characters make the same points and have the same arguments again and again without really propelling the story forwards.

Much of the action involves the soldier, Remus, played in a one-note performance by Robert Eadon, waving his firearm about threatening to shoot cheeky chappy Peter (an unsure Donncha Kearney). Sadly the repartee between them misses the mark a lot of the time, the jokes don’t land as they should and the energy doesn’t fluctuate at all. This coupled with some seriously poor diction means it’s hard to understand a lot of what is being said.

Once the wolves start howling it’s difficult to be too engaged. There is a nice feminist message to be interpreted in the ending but it feels too little too late. What mystery and suspense there is ends up astutely worn away by Stuart Vincent’s static direction. Characters stand around, swaying as though standing on a pantomime ship, rushing through their lines with little thought to what they are meant to be saying.

The biggest mystery of the night is a decision by designer Francis White to decorate the stage with runes. Not a single mention of them is made in the play (that this reviewer could discern) and they seem to have no bearing on the world of the play except that maybe they’re a bit scary.

It falls on the shoulders of Evelyn Lockley as the otherworldly Mary to keep things going and she gives a good go of it. Lockley has a knack for giving importance to each word, lingering over meaning in a way that really can suck the audience in.

Stack10 Theatre are clearly an ambitious group and with some reworking and maybe less first night nerves this could be a genuinely unsettling piece of modern day folk horror.

Reviewed on 20 October 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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