Pros: Superb acting, great monologues, wonderful staging and strong direction.
Cons: The pace wanes in parts and the overarching theme has been done before.
If you’re a massive Let the Right One In fan like me, Cuddles won’t take you by surprise: they are two very similar and dark tales of lost vampires relying on their human friends to feed off or find food for them. In saying that however, you can’t fault award winning playwright Joseph Wilde for wanting to explore the huge vampire trend the world was going nuts for a few years ago. The likes of Twilight, The Vampire Diaries and True Blood were all at the height of their global fame when Wilde wrote this incredible piece of theatre and he has done a remarkable job. Although the theme of Cuddles may not be new, what Wilde does with his script is flip it on its side and, through some fantastic staging and unsuspecting twists, makes you second guess everything you’re watching over the gripping 80 minutes.
First appearing and touring in 2013, this show is independent theatre at its very finest and currently on at South London’s Ovalhouse. Without giving too much away, as it’s the twists towards the end that shock, the plot focuses on two sisters that live in the magical land of Loughton. Eve is a 13 year old vampire who has never left her room and Tabby, the older of the two, is her crude, damaged and loving captor. Eve lives in the dark, both literally and figuratively, as everything she knows about the world and herself is what Tabby tells her. Eve does everything a good little vampire girl should, including drinking her (human) sister’s blood. But one fateful day, Tabby tires of constantly opening up her veins to her hungry sister and decides to change things.
Carla Langley as the incredibly naive Eve is spell binding and I felt like I was being glamoured as I watched her. From dry humping her sisters leg or believing that Harry Potter is actually real, Langley captures Eve’s naivety incredibly well and she is endearing and terrifying in equal measure. It’s no wonder she was nominated for Best Female Performance at 2013 Offies. Rendah Heywood delivers such a strong performance as the cruel to be kind Tabby that it’s like a stake through your heart. Heywood’s Tabby is a foul mouthed bitch that takes no prisoners, except her sister. Tabby has all of the great one liners (‘Why drink my blood when you can drink Fanta!’) and disturbing monologues and Heywood inflicts them with razor sharp precision. These two woman together on stage is a feast for the senses as their combined timing, humour and vulnerability is a joy to behold. It may sound all dark and gloomy, but Cuddles is extremely funny and poignant at times and the humour helps lift some of the more serious undertones.
The set of Eve’s perilous bedroom, designed by James Turner, is quite the sight and Pablo Baz’s lighting is very clever. Director Rebecca Atkinson-Lord, from the wonderful Arch 468, doesn’t disappoint either: her direction draws out the imaginative, thought provoking and emotional apects of the play. I found some of the ‘cuddles’ scenes just so beautiful to watch. The only let down for me was the pace; Tabby would often walk off and then there would be a slight gap or an unnecessary lights down moment, which broke up the narrative.
Cuddles is a dark and disturbing tale which will leave you feeling very unsettled as you walk home. I can guarantee you’ll find yourself turning around to check that there’s no-one there. Go see it before it moves to New York this summer.
Author: Joseph Wilde
Director: Rebecca Atkinson-Lord
Producer: Arch 468
Box Office: 020 7582 7680
Booking Link: http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/cuddles-by-joseph-wilde
Booking Until: 16 May 2015