Cockpit Theatre, London – at until 23 August 2019
The Werewolf of Washington Heights is a play by Christie Perfetti Williams that was first staged in the US in 2017. It is set in a near future, one that imagines the devastating impact of Trump’s policies on poor and immigrant communities. Sadly, viewing this in 2019, we realise that her vision is not that far off the mark.
A girl is missing. A reporter wants to find out what happened to her. Does her family know more than they are telling? Is there a werewolf at large?
As someone who can normally spot an ending from a mile off, I loved being surprised by this play. No spoilers here, but as you learn more about the girl, her family, and her neighbourhood, you realise that everyone has their own theory, coloured by their own experience of the world.
With their mission to put women (particularly 35+ women) at the centre of the theatre they do, The Werewolf of Washington Heights is a perfect choice for Slackline Productions, providing them with a riveting all-female vehicle. The nine-strong cast all give strong and compelling performances in this twisting, thought-provoking play. Oyin Orija in particular shines as neighbour Junie, who is fierce yet vulnerable as we discover that she is recovering from her own tragic loss.
The production successfully combines the very real, everyday struggles the characters are living through, with mythical elements. The story hooked me from the beginning, and at 90 minutes long maintained a good pace that kept me thoroughly engaged throughout.
The use of technology enhances the story by making it clear what is shared on versus off the record. It can be tricky and distracting to include live video projections in a show, but here it is done well.
Under Sophie O’Shea’s direction the different threads, flash backs and theories weave together into a seamlessly executed and choreographed whole. Key emotional moments pack a genuine punch, particularly a scene of shared understanding between Maggie and her aunt.
Whether you’d call it a political play told through a personal lens, or a family drama set firmly within the imagined political realities of this near future New York, ‘The Werewolf of Washington Heights’ certainly succeeds in being both an intimate family story and a disturbing vision of where 45’s presidency might lead the US.
‘The Werewolf of Washington Heights’ runs at Cockpit Theatre at 9pm until Friday 23rd August. I’d definitely recommend this show to lovers of inventive, story-rich new writing.
For those of you that read my review for ‘My Other Self’ running in the 7pm slot at the Cockpit theatre, you’ll know that my advice would be to get there early and treat yourself to both. While the two shows could not be more different, the Cockpit have certainly scheduled a provocative and exciting double bill.