Director: Mick Barnfather
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
When you leave a theatre and you don’t know what to say, it’s usually one of two extremes; either the thing you’ve just seen has so touched and moved you that your brain is still processing how magnificent it was while your heart is awarding those rarely bestowed five stars… or it’s because it was dreadful and you can’t quite fathom it. Sadly Wolf Meat which opened at the Pleasance Theatre this week falls into the latter category, stretching what is essentially a couple of sketches into an hour-long ‘story’ about a drug-dealing granny.
Despite the name and the characters – Wolfie, Grandma and Red – this has nothing whatsoever to do with Little Red Riding Hood, or if it did, how wasn’t remotely clear. What plot there is revolves around the drug-pushing grannybeing busted by undercover police officer Dawn Taylor, who poses as a stripper-cum-internet porn star to get close to Wolfie. There’s also a put-upon Cinderella-type granddaughter who sets up the whole thing in revenge ending in a Reservoir Dogs-style shoot out.
The somewhat cavernous gaps between story progression are filled by frequent and frequently painful moments of audience participation that reveal the paying public arefunnier that the cast members, particularly when one was given a fake gun and told to shoot one of the characters, which she did and thereby derailed that section of the plot thathad to reset – surely an outcome the (uncredited) writer might have anticipated.
Comedy is a tough thing to get right and tastes can vary so widely, so for every person who watches this doubled with laughter at its surreal cartoonish meandering, others will baulk at the student humour and crude, borderline pantomime associations. And there are moments when this is funny, especially as the cast improvise well when the audience givesunexpected answers, but too often they resort to shock humour such as incest inferences or Wolfie pulling his trousers down – clearly Oliver Harrison has no artisticqualms about only doing nudity if essential to the plot and there’s an Olivier on offer.
On the whole, the characterisations are not bad; Mella Faye Punchard’s Grandma totters along on a walker and appeals to the audience as she dips in and out of the plot to explain the mechanics of theatre; Oliver Harrison’s Wolfie is suitably hairy, geeky and repressed, while Kate Grace Cooper is particularly entertaining as Dawn / Red. It is possible to see these people being recurring grotesques in a sketch show but don’t contain nearly enough life or story to maintain them for an hour.
This should have been silly, playful and slapstick, but sadly is sloppy, loose and directionless. More time needs to be spent on developing a tighter story and some sharper lines that better utilise the comic talents of the cast, rather than wasting time with audience interaction to fill the hour. Either that or repurpose the characters for stand-up, which may well suit them better than a play format. The cartoon nature of Wolf Meat means you want to like it but, sadly, you leave the theatre wondering what it was allabout.
Runs until 16 January 2016 | Image: Contributed