Wolfie by Ross Willis, Theatre 503, Battersea Park Road, London SW11. 5***** Ken Deed

by Ross Willis.
Theatre 503, the Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 to 13 April 2019.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm
Runs 2 hours. One Interval

TICKETS: 0207 978 7040.

Review: Ken Deed 24 March.

A triumphant debut

Theatre 503 has a fine reputation for discovering and developing new writers. In Wolfie, Ross Willis’ debut, it would seem to have hit paydirt, heralding a major new and distinctive voice in theatre writing.

This two-act, two-hander is unlike anything you will have quite seen before, a wild and wildly ambitious, fast paced phantasmagorical epic that dazzles with its physical and lyrical inventiveness.

Its initial premise, akin to Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, is that of twins torn apart at birth and raised in radically different circumstances. One is tenderly and instructively raised by a wolf, the other by an emotionless, depressive foster mother unable to provide the most basic essentials for a growing child, love and clean knickers. The former is loved but helplessly feral on returning to human society, the latter is left desperately seeking an alternative source of maternal care.

Underlying Wolfie is the question who will parent the parentless, who will love the unloved. A triumph of Willis’ vision is that, in its joyous, anarchic theatricality, it insists on hope.

The twins are played, in an exuberantly symbiotic double act, by Erin Doherty and Sophie Melville. Both give stellar performances, weaving the twin interconnecting stories together with a constantly changing cast of characters; teachers, benefit officers, spiders, a woodpecker, a whole copse of gossiping trees (it taking a forest to raise a child), foetuses, and more.

Direction, by Lisa Spirling, matches the writing for inventiveness and maintains a roller-coaster pace and energy that takes the audience from hilarity to heartbreak and back in a heartbeat. A triumph all round.

(reviewed in preview: 22nd March)

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