Gina Millington, Hayley Dawson and Céline Planata are all superb as multiple characters in BGT’s production of “Wolves Are Coming For You”.
BGT’s innovative production of “Wolves Are Coming For You” showcases three excellent actors in a multitude of roles.
Breaking down the fourth wall before the audience has even been seated, Hayley Dawson, Gina Millington and Céline Planata provide a warm welcome and chit chat with friends and family before smartly snapping into character when the play begins. Joel Horwood’s “Wolves Are Coming For You” was chosen specifically by BGT to showcase the talents of these young actors, and boy do they deliver.
Designer Lina Peller has the actors dressed all in black and on a bare black stage. It is up to them to evocatively set the scene for the audience, act as occasional narrators and introduce the characters--a less poetic “Under Milk Wood”, if you will.
Set in an unnamed village, the play is a lesson in how, in the words of Horwood, “we have buried our most godlike talent--empathy--in favour of our most base, animal instinct--blind fear”. It is a fear of the unknown and a loathing of strangers. But the play also tackles bullying and lashing out at loved ones, loss of tradition and a yearning to escape, and the desperate clinging to fading relationships.
The villagers feel threatened by the unknown and outsiders and even, in one hilarious example, by a meat stew. An elderly woman who has inherited the family farm and fears she is suffering from dementia cannot connect with her daughter, who has moved to the city and is disinclined to take over the holding. The taciturn vicar is uncomfortable dealing with his parishioners’ problems, while his wife, the village school teacher, feels trapped in the tiny community and a sense of failure when her charges do not turn out to be perfect. A mother who feeds her nervous daughter cakes (it is a relationship based on food, we are told) cannot see that the girl’s weight gain is making her the target of bullies. The local policeman is all bluster and posed masculinity, while a loner who lives in the woods is forced to break cover when drama turns to crisis. A girl labelled a bully turns out to be highly vulnerable.
Their reaction to a rumour of wolves in the forest brings out the worst and best in the villagers. The characters are great sketches that are universally familiar, though some do have traits that are perhaps very particular to English village life. But the actors bring them to life and superbly allow them to develop as the plot thickens. Millington has the most diverse roles, playing the old woman, the policeman and the overweight girl, and uses her skills in physical theatre to brilliant effect. Planata has wonderful poise and commands the stage with confidence as the prodigal daughter, the loner and the vicar’s wife. Using subtle ticks and excelllent reactive acting, Dawson lends her characters--the vicar, the mistrustful cake-baking mother and the girl bully--tremendous authenticity. All three have a rapport that allows them to overlap dialogue with natural ease and the charisma to draw audience attention even when they are not speaking.
The script, sometimes harrowing, often brilliantly funny, develops neatly to draw the characters to satisfying resolution, though the second half of the play is slightly more chaotic and claustrophobic and--be warned--involves some (voluntary) audience participation. But director Tony Kingston has paced the play with his accustomed panache and verve that keeps the audience engaged throughout, and we come away having been thoroughly entertained and with food for thought. You cannot ask for more.
“Wolves Are Coming For You” is on at the International School Luxembourg on Friday 6 September at 7.30 pm and on Saturday 7 September at 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm. Advance tickets here.