A mythical woodland with an eerie atmosphere and an overshadowing jingle greets us at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre. The air is filled with fog, and we can sense that something mysterious is going to happen. The lights dim and out step Brigid Lohrey and Grace Cookey-Gam. Slipping into the role of narrator for the beginning of Wolves Are Coming for You, they explain to us what the stage will transform into over the next two hours.
In our imagination, the stage will become a remote farm, a school, a town hall, a church, and the ominous woods which serve as home to all sorts of spooky creatures. Joel Horwood’s Wolves Are Coming for You is directed by Kate Bannister and does what the title promises: it sets the scene for a ghost-story-like mystery that transpires in the heart of a small village in the middle of nowhere. Dialogue-laden scenes unravel what happened on that one particular night in which the wolves were heard howling.
In a theatrical back and forth, Lohrey and Cookey-Gram (named in the programme as Player One and Player Two) slip into the roles of the villagers — the bullied schoolgirl Ellen, the vicar and his wife Dee, eleven-year-old Ida, and police officer Harry Jones are among the many faces the two actors take on. But it all starts with Bea Lewis, a dementia-riddled farmer with a shotgun and a hunchback. On that fateful day, she claims that she saw a wolf in the headlights of her daughter’s car. The rumour spreads and brings the villagers together through the common fear of the illusory wolf. The plot thickens when Grace’s daughter Ellen goes missing and the person who saw her last is the solitary dreadlocked veteran Ferdy who nobody in the village seems to like.
With ease, the two actors slip into the skins of multiple different characters, each one identifiable through a specific prop – Harry Jones’ belt, Grace’s red jacket, Mrs Lewis’ cardigan, among others. Lohrey’s portrayals in particular present a wide range and a delightful distinction between each character. Unfortunately, however many characters are played by the two women, I cannot help but be taken aback by the lack of chemistry between them. Even though the dialogue is well-rehearsed, and the characters vary in posture, speech pattern, and look, the detail in the individual performances seems to hinder the two actors from connecting with each other.
Nevertheless, the idea of a dangerous creature haunting the village has brought not only the villagers, but also the audience closer together in suspense and expectancy of what is going to happen. Regrettably, when the suspense has reached its catharsis, the story disappoints in an anticlimactic reveal. The wolf has turned out not to be a wolf but is symbolic of the fact that every villager was required to face their own demons on that fateful night.
Wolves Are Coming for You is set up as a suspenseful, partially narrated ghost-story performed on a foggy, fantastical stage (designed by Karl Swinyard and Robbie Butler), but fails to deliver in the grand finale. However, the lack of climax does not take away from the actor’s sublime ability to constantly take on new characters and uncover secrets about any and every person in the village.
Wolves Are Coming for You is playing at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre until 17 July 2021. For more information and tickets visit Brockley Jack Studio Theatre.