by Paloma Pedrero translated by Roxanne Silbert.
Arcola Theatre (Arcola 2) 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL To 9 March 2014.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
Production too repressive for the play’s, and its central character’s, own good.
If Bazaar, its companion in the two-play modern Spanish drama season accompanying the great classical antecedents in the Arcola’s main-space, looks at contemporary issues of ethnicity and xenophobia, Paloma Pedrero focuses on individual experience. Bazaar puts us in Madrid, as a melting-pot; Wolf Kisses takes place literally at the end of the line in designer Maria Kalamara’s set, where two sets of rail-tracks almost meet as they peter-out.
It’s here young Ana quietly returns from a convent. But more than training by nuns must lie behind her physicalreticence and fear of being touched. She invents a distant fiancé to keep the respectfully interested local men at bay, forming a friendship only with one who is gay – or as he prefers to say (as he’s been told) “homosexual”.
From this distance, and going by this production, something of the soul of Frederico Garcia Lorca seems to have seeped into Paloma Pedrero’s writing, although not the extensive symbolism. And Pedrero’s reputation is for adopting simple, single, realistic situations based on observation – as there was something of observation and history about Lorca’s work.
What Natalie Kitsou’s production, and specifically Katerina Watson’s performance as Ana, suggest is a secret, repressed rejection of life itself, particularly the physical. Ana is seen with men, talking, avoiding physical contact, but not actually doing anything herself. How does she fill her waking hours?
The converging rail tracks provide a fateful presence, especially when someone lies down in them, or there’s talk of death – but nothing happens (no trains come down them; they’re as much sidings as is this small place overall). They do, though, hamper movement and lead to some awkward stepping about that has no real dramatic purpose.
Wolf Kisses is more mood piece than psychological investigation in this staging, which is brave in the attempt but suggests characters only sketchily realised, and which leaves the central, sole female role stranded between shyness, repression and caution. The production’s fashionably contained, inward style doesn’t let on enough what’s inside Ana’s head. Ambiguity can be strength, but vagueness is weakness, and even minimalism has a minimum expressive need.
Luciano: Patrick Holt.
Camilo: Angus King.
Agustin: Jon Millington.
Ana: Katerina Watson.
Director: Natalie Kitsou.
Designer: Maria Kalamara.
Lighting: Rob Youngson.
Composer: Andrei Ionescu.
Assistant director: Todd Manley.
Assistant designer: Salomi Makaronidou.