Writer: Molly Walker
Director: Grace Duggan
Molly Walker is simply incredible in her solo show Wild, Actually. With the confidence of a stand-up comedian and with the eloquence of a poet, Walker tells a very British story of someone trying to escape one’s social class.
Ell lives where Essex and London meet. She has a London accent, most noticeable when she and her classmates sing Christmas carols in primary school. It’s here, too, where she indulges in an early career as a petty thief, stealing chocolate bars from fellow pupils and then eating them in the toilets. One day she is caught by her teacher and is forced to read out an apology to the class. She decides that she must be better.
She becomes the captain of various sports teams, takes up ballroom dancing and plays the trumpet. Soon, Ell has her eyes on the position of Head Girl. She’s seen the likes of Mean Girls and The Hunger Games and knows what she has to do to be popular.
Around the same time, she meets Hugo while playing paintball. In a wonderfully choreographed scene, where she and her friends are battling a group of public-school boys, Elle and Hugo are the last two standing. The last thing Ell expects is to fall in love. She talks posh to conceal her humble origins.
Walker is a delight throughout, capturing Ell’s cheeky Essex girl demeanour, winking at the audience to keep them on side. Interspersed within Ell’s story are sections of spoken word but they fit so smoothly that these rhyming lines don’t feel out of place at all. They add more vibrancy to Walker’s energetic performance.
Refreshingly in a play about social class, there are no real villains in the world that Ell enters after meeting Hugo. It would be so easy to paint the new people she meets as privileged prigs, but Hugo and his friends are decent enough people. And Ell does such a good job of adapting to her new life that it’s doubtful whether Hugo is even aware of their class differences.
The end of this Pygmalion story is unexpected and its mythic and filmic qualities clash somewhat with what has been presented before. But by this time, you are so invested in Ell’s story and Walker’s captivating performance, you’d happily follow them both to the end of the world.
Runs until 20 May 2023