Jack Studio Theatre, London – until 17 July 2021
The first in-house production at the Jack Studio since The Invisible Man back in late 2019, Wolves Are Coming For You by Joel Horwood is a story about a small community forced to pull together against an invisible but potentially deadly threat – making it a particularly timely choice after the year we’ve all just lived through.
Two players (Brigid Lohrey and Grace Cookey-Gam) introduce us to a cast of small-town characters who are living their everyday small-town lives – until someone sees a wolf. Or did they? As the story spreads through the town over the following 24 hours, each of the characters is forced to confront their own demons and decide whether to fight or flee. And as the sun rises the following day, each of them is different in some way from the person they were the day before. Whether the wolves actually existed, we’ll never know – but they’ve served their purpose nonetheless.
Despite the large number of characters – from an elderly farmer terrified of succumbing to dementia, to a bumbling local policeman who nobody ever takes seriously, to a teenager afraid to tell her overprotective mother she wants to be a dancer – director Kate Bannister simply but clearly differentiates each from the next. Lohrey and Cookey-Gam excel at portraying these different personalities, often with split-second changes from one to another, with a slight change of posture, accent or the addition of a single piece of clothing telling us instantly who we’re looking at.
As ever, the Jack Studio team have put together a high-quality production, with light and sound design from Robbie Butler and Philip Matejtschuk respectively creating real atmosphere and tension as the night draws in on this rural community. Karl Swinyard’s attractive woodland set completes the illusion, with projections setting the scene in different locations as the action moves across town.
Wolves Are Coming For You can’t in fairness be described as an action-packed play; though there certainly is an element of suspense and danger, and there are moments of drama, the focus is never really on the wolves that may or may not be stalking the town, but on those living within it. But that lack of action in itself is what makes the play interesting, because it reminds that it doesn’t take a wolf to plunge someone into crisis – they may already be there, and they may not even realise it themselves yet. With Covid dominating all our lives for so long now, this feels like an important lesson to remember. A welcome return for the Jack’s in-house team; let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 18 months for the next one.