There have been very few plays (or films for that matter) that have offered an examination of young women that is as refreshing or eloquent as Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves.
This is not a traditional play about young women. The football-mad teens are thankfully not defined by their relations to, or thoughts about, boys. This is also not a play about sex or sexuality (well, maybe just a little but not directly).
It’s a stunning achievement that owes as much to DeLappe’s writing as it does to the talented ensemble cast that bring the prose to life. I deliberately haven’t singled any one out, as it is my view that one of the best aspects of the play is its ensemble nature, written so as to not allow for ‘breakout’ performances.
The Wolves is brilliantly written, performed, and directed (by Sophie Roberts), and looks at how teenage girls really speak to each other, compete with each other, and relate to one another when what they share is a collective identity, a team identity, a sporting identity – and how those identities intersect with friendship, ambition, and rivalry.
DeLappe eschews cheap tropes and archetypes and instead presents us with beautifully nuanced characters that feel real and lived in. In fact,
any early assumptions you do make about a character tends to fall away quickly, collapsing under the playwrights sharp dialogue and earned narrative pivots. Within minutes, the football (or soccer depending on who you talk to) mad teenagers that inhabit the play emerge as a completely defined and rendered self.
The dialogue, which comes at you thick and fast, has an almost unwritten feel of a real conversation. At times it’s banal and inconsequential, and often endearingly silly. But out of it, more complicated intimacies and truths emerge; the gulf separating girlhood and maturity, the tribalism of teenagers, and the challenges of being a woman. It’s a portrait which uses humour to deliver sharp insights, and in its closing stretch, deep sadness.
Structured around a series of warm-ups the girl banter, bitch, and bond between all the stretching and dribbling exercises. These scenes provide us with our best window into the girls lives and their idiosyncrasies. They joke around, press each others buttons, and veer between discussing everything from Harry Potter to tampons, the Khmer Rogue, and the merits of Self-Knowledge.
The last part of The Wolves unexpectedly turns away from live on the pitch, using the impact of an unseen tragedy to test the bonds of the girls, and their sporting and collective identity. Watching the team fracture and then slowly find their way back to one and other was truly affecting.
The Wolves perfectly captures what is great about live theatre. It’s striking, it’s affecting, it’s unmissable. Watch it while you still can.
The Wolves is at the Q Theatre Loft until until July 19, 2019. You can book tickets here.