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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Wolf From The Door
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs   Autumn 2014

Sometimes a short play can feel longer than a full-length one. Something in the writing or the direction keeps it from coming alive, time seems to drag, your seat becomes ever more uncomfortable, and although talented and dedicated actors are up there giving it their all, nothing – or too little – is happening. 

Rory Mullarkey's play has an intriguing premise, a clear message, touches of wit and irony and some good performances, but for too much of its ninety minutes it just lies there, and the fault is partly in a script that tells too much and shows too little and partly in a director unable to compensate for that. 

A very rich middle-aged woman picks up a rootless young man precisely because he is rootless and also very beautiful. For years she has been planning a violent revolution to destroy a corrupt and decadent British society, financing armed sleeper cells in WI groups, morris dancing clubs, community orchestras, pub quiz teams and the like. 

Now, she has decided, is the moment to bring it all down, kill everyone in the establishment, and leave this empty but pretty young man to rebuild a new world order. 

And that's what the play shows us – or, rather, doesn't show us, since it all happens offstage and every hint of violence onstage, from a slap in the face up, has been edited out by director James Macdonald, with the action freezing, the event described by a recorded voice, and the actors jump-cutting to the moment after. 

What we do get is a lot of static talk, and it is difficult to decide which of several undramatic scenes feel the most interminable – a ride with a morose minicab driver that I think is meant to be comic, a lecture by the woman on the need for revolution that plays like, well, a lecture, or the recitation in unison by the whole cast of a description of the carnage that leaves them looking vaguely embarrassed. 

Anna Chancellor strides through the play with her accustomed authority and strong personality as the revolutionary leader, but Calvin Demba frequently looks lost and desperate for direction as the lad. 

Sophie Russell and Pearce Quigley play Everyone Else, a half-dozen very different roles each, and at least get the opportunity to demonstrate their impressive versatility and skill at instant characterisations.

Gerald Berkowitz


Review - The Wolf From The Door - Royal Court Upstairs 2014  
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