I was incredibly fortunate to work with writer/director Simon Harris when I was a final year Performing Arts student at UWTSD in 2010. It was an intense, challenging and rewarding experience. Much time has since passed, but I do recall a horse’s head, smoke, bombs & a derelict hotel room. The end product was very film noir meets Hamlet (my daughter still recalls me playing a burning child) but it was the rehearsal process that I found fascinating. Nothing is accidental. Characters are debated, constructed, deconstructed and consumed. The narrative is argued, decided, twisted and unpicked. Each individual performer knows exactly what they are saying, how they are moving and every single thought process that goes in between. I am making it sound contrived and forced, but it’s not. It is a relentless and lengthy journey that rewards the actors with a confidence in both their character and the text.
When I heard Simon’s new show Little Wolf would be at Volcano in Swansea High Street, I excitedly booked tickets. Once my other half realised we could still watch the Wales v Australia rugby game in some dubious pub in Wind Street (that was my sacrifice) AND see Little Wolf, the plan took shape. I also had to reassure him that the show wouldn’t be too weird (to be fair to him the last show I treated him to featured Gareth Clark of Mr & Mrs Clark donning a crocodile’s head in F.E.A.R.). I also didn’t mention that Little Wolf is based loosely on Henrik Ibsen’s Little Eyolf – a dark play about the death of a child and the complexity of relationships. Some things are best left as a surprise I feel.
I love Ibsen’s plays. I have been lucky to see some beautiful productions of The Wild Duck, A Doll’s House, Pillars of Society, Ghosts and Hedda Gabler. Via Little Wolf, Simon pays homage to Ibsen’s work but also brings a new focus to the horrifying psychology of the four characters (and the fifth character who we never meet – the dead child) over a 36 hour period. Even an Ibsen virgin can’t help but be moved by the isolation, hopelessness and sense of impending doom (or essential retribution) that the narrative hurtles towards. Although there are lighter moments, it’s an intense exploration of guilt and how it can eat away at your soul (and the impact that this has on those around you).
The show was lightly traumatic but beautifully handled by the actors Alex Chatworthy, Melangell Dolma, Gwydion Rhys and John-Paul Macleod. The simple but appropriate set by Designer Holly Piggot was enhanced by Jane Lalljee’s lighting design & projections. They worked particularly well in Volcano’s space – evoking an eerie feeling of inevitability.
The show was elegant, dark and uncomfortable. A fitting anecdote to the 90 minute rugby match I was forced to endure beforehand. I found Simon after the show (he’s probably his own harshest critic) and it was really lovely to see him and catch up after a whirlwind 7 year gap since the horse’s head thing. I’m hoping that his new venture Lucid Theatre will allow us to see more of his work.
‘What a tragedy’ I muttered intelligently as we left Volcano. I was met with ‘yep, Australia walked all over Wales’. I give up.
Thank you to Claud at Volcano for sending me the photos by Jorge Lizalde.