Directed by Rebecca Atkinson-Lord
Pros: A most unusual script brought to life by two strong actors.
Cons: Nothing much to report. Some elements of the show didn’t quite work but nothing too bad.
Our Verdict: Funny, touching and incredibly intense, this is new writing at its best.
There have been a lot of shows about the riots in recent times. Some have been sympathetic to the rioters, whilst others have presented the facts without taking sides. Although this is a show written in the wake of and certainly inspired by these events, you won’t see anything like it anywhere else. Cuddles is the story of Eve, a 13 year-old vampire who has never left her room and who knows nothing of the world other than what her sister has told her. It is a profound and deeply effective metaphor of the young consumerist while highlighting the complications of family life and the difficult transition into adulthood.
The set is brilliantly unsettling with a wrought iron child’s bed, filthy bed linen and buckets of faeces to the side. The show begins with Eve (Carla Langley) crawling out from under the floorboards to deliver a sinister monologue with a torch under her chin. As supernatural creatures go, there is nothing creepier than a child and although Carla Langley is clearly a fully grown woman, she is also very convincing as a feral 13 year-old. Part of the reason why this show is so effective is the strong performances and the chemistry between the two sisters. Rendah Heywood is terrific as the man-hating, money-obsessed older sister who, despite being the only human of the two, strangely lacks real human qualities. She is deficient in basic empathy and seems to only really care about herself.
The relationship between the two is deeply complex and much of the action and dialogue is steeped in heavy metaphor. They both reflect each other and the modern world in so many ways. The older sister Tabby is vampiric in her attitude to the world and to money and sex. Tabby does not give, she takes and her man-hating views are extreme. When she almost falls in love with a hippy, her description of him as a sliver of light in a darkened room reflects both the life of her younger sister and our own refusal to part with consumerism.
Another excellent element of this show is the lighting and sound design. The lighting, provided by Pablo Baz, felt like a suitable homage to the horror film genre and adds so much to the eerie feeling in the auditorium. This teamed with brilliant sound design from Edward Lewis – providing deafening heartbeats and unsettling scratching noises above our heads – makes for top class horror fun.
Cuddles incorporates several playwriting styles and will certainly appeal to a wide audience. It is written by Joseph Wilde who has a wicked sense of humour matched with a sharp understanding of human nature. It is great to see a show which explores our humanity through an exciting supernatural storyline, while also maintaining high production values and a rich wealth of talent across the board. This show is tinged with real sadness and serves as a constant reminder of the struggle to live healthily in the modern world. The distinct emptiness and insatiable hunger that comes with consumerism is a ghostly presence in each scene and the fact that this idea is never discussed directly makes it even more effective.
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Cuddles runs at the Ovalhouse Theatre until 1st June 2013.