The Wolves is ostensibly a play about nine teenage girls training hard for the chance to play in Malibu at an end-of-season indoor football tournament.
But instead of really being about ‘soccer’, Sarah DeLappe’s well-received debut drama deals with the everyday social pressures faced by these high school team-mates.
The majority of the sporting action takes place off stage at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, with the girls then discussing their adventures and misdemeanours while at training.
In a tight 90-minutes, they talk about massacres in Cambodia and children being separated from their parents at the border between the US and Mexico.
The captain (Hannah Scott), who tries to keep the team focused on the task at hand instead of delving into the deep conversations about tampons etc., is going through her own awakening and is seen throughout becoming more comfortable with her sexuality and starting a relationship with a girl.
It feels very much like you have stepped back in time to eavesdrop on the kind rumours and the stories that only circulate when you are a teenager. Scenes that address mental health and death from the view of a teenager are met with awkward laughter from the audience.
‘There are life choices that need to made by the characters, and opportunities laid out in front of them’
They are a little difficult to watch, being so honest about how mental illness is ignored by society in general and also the awkwardness of dealing with death for the first time.
When a new, supremely talent team-mate joins, she questions the group’s friendships and their views on the outside world, having travelled widely with her mother. She finds the intense spider web of their relationships intriguing: finding out that one of them may have had an abortion, she asks why.
The goalkeeper, who suffers from anxiety, is seen running off stage before every match with her team-mates laughing as she needs to be sick again. This results in an arc that sees all the lights but one goes off in the theatre as she screams on stage and rips of her shirt.
It ends with three of the girls having the chance to go on and play football at college, sparking some intense jealousy from the rest of the team. After this match, one of the girls is missing from the stage; tragedy has occurred and the team is in mourning.
‘Although the piece is poignant, there aren’t massive strides made in terms of character development’
Wolves is an honest representation of the conversations that occur amongst teenagers, and focuses really well on the stresses and anxieties of adolescence.
It also highlights the challenges of fitting in and being the same as your friends at school. One girl is made fun of for still using sanitary towels instead of tampons.
There are life choices that need to made by the characters, and opportunities laid out in front of them.
However, although the piece is poignant, there aren’t massive strides made in terms of character development. The team feel more or less the same people at the end of the play as they are at the outset (apart from the captain’s haircut).
It has several opportunities to employ that development arc, as the play starts at the beginning of the season and concludes with its final game, but chooses not to, which is a shame.
Feature image courtesy of the Theatre Royal Stratford East. For information about upcoming productions, click here.