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Cuddles

Rendah Heywood and Carla Langley in Cuddles at the Ovalhouse. Photo: Alex Beckett Rendah Heywood and Carla Langley in Cuddles at the Ovalhouse. Photo: Alex Beckett

Thirteen year old Eve is not allowed outside. She’s lived her whole life in one room, her safe zone. She’s had to, because Eve is a monster, a vampire – she has a hunger which needs to be contained.

Joseph Wilde’s first full-length play, returning to Ovalhouse as part of a UK tour, is a fairy tale with teeth. Eve’s only point of contact with the world beyond her room is her older sister, Tabby, off whom she feeds. It’s an unnerving set-up and Wilde handles it well, playing with horror tropes – there are shades of Ginger Snaps and Carrie as well as disturbing nods to real-life abuse cases – while also saying something about the ways in which love can get twisted and the damage people can do to one another. The chains and locks, the piss-bucket and the daily feedings, have become normal to these two. Eve is simultaneously a Cinderella figure and Anne Rice’s child-vampire with none of the social graces, casually humping a table leg as the sisters play Monopoly.

Rebecca Atkinson-Lord’s production is not short on nastiness but it knows when to pull back. Rendah Heywood and Carla Langley revel in their roles, the former worldly and hard-edged, the latter unnervingly child-like and feral, her bare legs streaked with filth.

Grimly engaging as it is, the piece over-explains itself in places and there’s a seam of broad, hard humour running through it which undermines the play’s considerable capacity to be both troubling and tender.

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Verdict
Grim, unsettling fairy tale steeped in horror tropes
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