Wolf Play – Theatre Review

Directed by Isabella Vadiveloo, and written by Hansol Jung, Wolf Play cleverly weaves the connection of a lone wolf and an adoptive child desperately trying to survive and find their place in the world.

Already struggling, Jeenu’s (Yuchen Wang) world once again is turned upside down when his previous adoptive father, Peter (Charlie Cousins), sends Jennu to his new family. Thrown around like an unwanted ragdoll; scared, weary and defensive, Jeenu is ushered into the lives of Robin (Jing-Xuan Chan) and Ash (Brooke Lee), who grow and struggle through the upbringing of a child that they have found off the internet. Ash, who is about to have their career changing boxing debut, is not fond of their wife’s impulse decision to adopt a child into their lives.

Can the lone wolf find his ‘pack’ and finally find his forever home?

As a new patron to Red Stitch Theatre, I never thought this small and intimate space would be a place to generate such deep and heart wrenching emotions! With a splash of humour as well, the unwanted harsh truths of parenting, adoption and family relations in Wolf Play corner you to reflect, relate, and be extremely vulnerable.

Wolf Play is meticulous and captivating with every single second of its 115-minute run time. A phenomenal use of a confined space, maximized through clever uses of props, haze, shadows and stage design, Wolf Play is able to incorporate several lines of stories to be delivered, at the same time sharing one stage with minimal changes.

Not only is Wolf Play impactful but it was easy to follow, allowing audiences to be pulled into the complex web of emotions that adoption and the yearning to belong created. The lighting design by Harrie Hogan plays is a big part of the development the story, revealing the inner emotions of the characters and transitioning between scenes. It was so smart and well done that I often forgot that the entire play was only centred around one kitchen table, with its smart and effective set and costume design by Sam Diamond.

Yuchen Wang, the actor who played Wolf and Jeenu, had me in awe with every movement. Wolf/Jeenu, who was represented by a faceless puppet, was no ordinary puppet. The puppetry was detailed, delicate and touching. It was the unspoken words that drew you into the innocence and despair of a child abandoned and craving a sense of belonging.

As the play progressed, and the addition of things like another drawing on the wall, the attachment to this puppet grew as if you were watching a child grow up each day. The execution was breathtaking. Wang was able to, at many times, convey exactly how Jeenu felt purely with his movement and expression, breaking the fourth wall, which grew the connection between himself and the audience. I was invested in his journey and rooted for him. He had brought all of us into his wolf pack.

Chan and Lee’s depiction of Robin and Ash is impeccable. On such a small stage and in such a short time, they delivered the complexities of suddenly becoming parents to a child. Especially one who had his own insecurities and hardships. They pulled us in on this journey with them and allowed the audience to experience their lives for a moment in time.

The show addresses hardship of same sex couples and how they are perceived in society, the struggle of adoptees and the connection with family members who don’t support your decisions. Wolf Play didn’t sugar-coat the difficulty for all parties involved but at the same time, it brought hope and life. Wolf Play took me on a rollercoaster of emotions through laughter and tears. Everything felt raw, heartfelt, and it was real.

Clearly a complicated story, Wolf Play can have your heart tied in knots, throw confronting and uncomfortable questions at you, but still remain moving, unique, creative and thought-provoking. Admittedly, I was in awe and lost for words long after I left the theatre.

Wolf Play is an intricate piece of work binding family, love, kinship and belonging. I would highly recommend this beautifully crafted play to everyone, but especially to those who are looking for something moving, but true to reality.

Wolf Play is now playing at Red Stitch Theatre in Melbourne until Sunday 2nd of April.
For more information and ticketing, visit: https://www.redstitch.net/wolf-play-2023

Photography by Jodie Hutchinson.

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