Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Children Of The Wolf

Highbury Theatre Centre


JOHN Peacock’s 1971 play about the consequence of actions is given a second airing at Highbury after an initial production back in 1975. 

The story of twins, abandoned at birth and determined to right some wrongs 21 years down the line, tackles themes that were undoubtedly more shocking at the time than they are today.

Adultery, promiscuity and general ‘bad parenting‘ were a big deal back in the early 70s. Huge, it seems, if the level of revenge exacted here is anything to go by.

In a sense, this is now almost a historical piece. Still relevant and certainly watchable but sitting very firmly in its time and place.

The action is played out on a suitably shadowy, run down set. It’s a room containing only simple furniture and with walls that need more than a little TLC. It’s more of a cell than a living room but that is very much the point.

To give the whole story would spoil the ending (and it must be said that it’s an ending that really shouldn’t be spoilt) Loosely, it’s about a brother and sister children posterwho manage to arrange a reunion with their estranged mother. Recriminations ensue and let’s just say there is not a huge amount of love in the room.

Helen Denning is suitably cold and calculated as daughter, Linda. It’s a tough role and sometimes not helped by the writer who gives her very little, if any, humour. It’s not, admittedly, in any sense a comedy role but such lengthy chunks of dialogue could do with a contrast of emotion at times, just to give the character more dimension. Denning, though, works well with what she has and creates genuine unease as she turns the screw on her crumbling victim.

Denning certainly has the ‘chill factor’. If Misery is on the cards anytime soon, she would absolutely nail Annie Wilkes . . . just a thought.

Susie May Lynch goes on something of an acting journey as the mother, Helena. At the outset, blissfully unaware of what is to come, she is confident and in charge. As the truth unfolds, however, her fall from grace is visibly apparent and well portrayed.

Josh Higgs gets less dialogue as the brother - to be fair he can’t really get a word in with his somewhat verbose and dominating sister. His physicality as a shy, emotionally unstable young man is nonetheless impressive.

Director, Claire Armstrong Mills embellishes the action with some atmospheric underscoring and uses lighting to good effect in flashback sequences. Crucially, she creates a foreboding atmosphere throughout.

At times, it feels a little like a radio play. Words feature more than action. There are large sections of dialogue that are often repeated and they really don’t need to be. The result of that is that pace can drop and it can appear slow. The structure of the piece doesn’t help. A short first act followed by a lengthy second one seems the wrong way round.

Cleverly directed and with strong performances, Children Of The Wolf will make you sit up and listen . . . and watch out for that ending!! To 29-10-16

Tom Roberts


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