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Wolfie review at Theatre503, London – ‘a fizzy, vivid debut play’

Sophie Melville and Erin Doherty in Wolfie at Theatre 503, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Ross Willis’ debut play takes the form of a weird, wild ride, a verbal helter-skelter. Twin girls burst into the world, eloquent from the point of conception, determined to tell their story. But the world is not ready for their energy and they are separated.

One ends up living with a “soggy” woman who’s too depressed to care for her properly, so she develops a bond with her chemistry teacher instead. The other ends up raised by a wolf-woman, running wild.

Wolfie is a messy fairytale about a broken system in which children often slither through the cracks. It’s tangled and wayward but frequently wonderful. There’s imagery of surreal brilliance – talking trees, loquacious woodpeckers, gobby foetuses – but at its heart it’s a play about care and what happens in its absence.

The twins are played by Sophie Melville (star of the devastating Iphigenia in Splott) and Erin Doherty (the saving grace of The Divide); both are furiously good, their energy immense. Wearing brightly coloured Play School presenter jumpsuits, they leapfrog each other and careen into the audience.

Designer Basia Binkowska has transformed the stage into a kind of womb-room scattered with convex mirrors on which Lisa Spirling directs a gloriously cacophonous production. Bubbles rain from above; blood is licked from fingers.

Award-winnng set designer Basia Binkowska: ‘Othello is the oven, Macbeth is the freezer’

All the whimsy and glitter becomes a bit intense at times, the theatre equivalent of necking sherbet from the packet. It’s stylistically overloaded in places (words are pinged around like elastic bands, jokes left to run amok), self-consciously strange in others, but it’s never less than arresting – a vivid and fizzy debut.

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Wild and weird debut play featuring two furiously good performances from Sophie Melville and Erin Doherty