Friday, 25 July 2014

Wolf Kisses @ The Old Red Lion Theatre, Islington


Wolf Kisses, a newly translated piece from Spanish playwright Paloma Pedrero, presents an incredibly pessimistic view of love as a prison.  It is a powerful emotion that can even drive us insane.

The nature of that prison is different for the varying characters within the play.  The main protagonist is Ana (Katerina Watson), a young woman returning home to her family in the country whilst she waits for her lover to join her.  She is (in a rather clich├ęd turn) a dreamer, lost in a fantasy world of passionate novels.  Her life is quite literally a fairytale: she scorns other suitors and the wishes of her father (a tender portrayal from Jon Millington), exiling herself in a prison of her own mind as she awaits her prince – but does he even exist?  Or has she written the letters he sends her herself?  This is left open for interpretation as Pedrero explores the boundaries between love and illusion.

The main issue, however, is that Ana is simply not a sympathetic character.  Wolf Kisses is meant to be a poetic morality tale, but Ana is a fantastical construction in a world of naturalism.  Rather than us believing in her plight, she comes across instead as a weak and petulant girl who doesn’t have the strength to confront her issues – even with an, at times, touching performance from Watson.  You can’t help but feel for her father trying to shake her into life.

Of far more interest is Ana’s friend Luciano, sensitively portrayed by Patrick Holt, who struggles with his own sexuality.  Where her prison is imaginary and self-inflicted, Luciano is forced to conform to the prison of society as he buries his feelings and, under the demands of his mother, gets married.  This is a real and tangible issue – Ana, by comparison, seems absurd.

The minimal set presents a simple backdrop to the narrative; Spanish guitar from Andrei Ionescu gives an enjoyable hint of context; the translation from Roxana Silbert is lucid and direct; and the cast offer some fine performances.  At its core, though, Pedrero’s play is imbalanced and flawed.

3/5

Watch: Wolf Kisses runs until 27th July.