SHEWOLVES - Southwark Playhouse Borough
Sarah Middelton’s joyous play arrives in London
Inspired by the likes of Greta Thunberg, school-age children across the world have begun to question the safety of their futures. Not only challenging government environmental policy, but Generation Z are also willing to call out inequality of any sort harnessing the power of social networking to rapidly spread their message. Sarah Middleton’s SHEWOLVES feels like a love letter for these young campaigners, proving that they are being heard and more importantly being taken seriously. Navigating the anxieties of a climate emergency whilst trying to find your place in the world is a terrifying feat and Middleton’s play captures this beautifully.
Styled like a noughties, coming-of-age, teen comedy, SHEWOLVES is bursting with charm and powered by watertight adolescent logic. Unbeknownst to her mother, Lou (Harriet Waters) is taking part in the Fridays For Future strike, a decision she has been warned against already by her school which now means despite being a model pupil she faces expulsion. Her classmate Priya (Gurjot Dhaliwal) facing problems back home, spots her chance to rebel through Lou and the pair form a quick bond, finding much-needed solace in their newfound friendship. The two decide the only sensible option left to them is to run away, escaping into the depths of the Peak District prepared to wait out their dilemmas amongst the sheep and cows - it's the SHEWOLVES against the world.
Middleton’s script delightfully captures the uncertain teen, eco-anxiety concoction felt by so many. Both linked through the innate feeling of powerlessness in the face of the unknown, intertwined with a desperate desire to be seen and heard but not always knowing what to say. Infused with laugh-out-loud, awkward humour the play crafts an accessible insight into the minds of these teenagers as they make sense of the evolving world around them - a tight script that hits the spot, not too demanding or aggressive in its message.
Harriet Waters and Gurjot Dhaliwal make for a wonderful pairing, bouncing the dialogue between them as their characters clash and gel in all the right places. Dhaliwal as the more extroverted Pria, speaks rapidly with often no clear direction, leaving bucketloads of laughter in her wake. A desperate need to be liked and wanted quickly finds its way through her protective exterior before her true self is allowed to present itself. Dhaliwal presents this range expertly, the blind confidence of Priya portrayed with ease. Equally as strong, Harriet Waters maintains Lou’s tension and nervousness, steadily finding her confidence as the play progresses - a steady transformation that is wonderful to see. As a unit, the two trace the beats of the piece beautifully, exposing the heart of the production for all to see.
Eleanor Isherwood has created a fitting cinematic soundtrack for the production that props up the swift transitions, like a cheesy but endearing montage consistent with that teen comedy style. The scenic design from Charlotte Henery is simple but wonderfully effective. The squishy carpet perfect for the bedroom aesthetic but ingenious in turning curtains into the trees of the Peak District. Hannah Stone’s direction truly holds the piece together, an osmotic vision present in all aspects of the production.
As always there is scope to improve with the ending feels a little rushed - the barn scene is slightly bizarre and the emotional stakes could be pushed a little more to further contrast the humour for a greater impact but this is me being nit-picky. Through a fearless combination of writing, direction and performance the team has uncovered two wonderful characters fuelled by a compelling and quietly important story that is more than deserving of audience attention. The voice of the next generation must be heard by those in power and SHEWOLVES encourages those willing to fight for their future to speak up whilst contextualising their struggle to help others understand their point of view. Timely, important and oh so funny.
Running until 8th July - Tickets
Photography - Pamela Raith Photography