I was in the audience at the very first performance of Wolfboy The Musical when it previewed at the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick, before being unleashed to audiences at the Edinburgh Festival last year. Incidentally, I found myself in the audience again whilst in the city scouring various productions on the fringe. Perhaps there was a force that lured me back to this chilling production, albeit in a somewhat raw state back then, but nonetheless its dark energy and strong narrative hooking me in. It resonated. A lot.
Wolfboy began as a stage play by Canadian playwright Brad Fraser, an original production that made a name of Keanu Reeves in the 80s. It follows the journey of two boys, David and Bernie (Paul Holowaty and Gregg Lowe returning to the West End production), who find themselves in neighbouring rooms of a psychiatric hospital.
Bernie is an attractive grade A student, who on the surface seems to have it all, though a futile attempt at suicide suggests a darker past. He soon encounters David, an unstable teenager who believes his soul is a wolf. The friendship is formed and we're taken on a chilling ride of endurance.
A stronger, sharper and much more dangerous production, where the stakes are elevated
Holowaty gives a committed performance as David, his unpredictable and mysterious charm oozing on every level. Lowe is equally strong in his portrayal as Bernie, whose recollection of years of abuse is played with a real sense of suffering. Daniel Boys steps up to the mark as Bernie's complex older brother Christian, proving he's got more to offer than that terrific voice, he's also a pretty smart actor too. It's perhaps the most difficult role to play here, yet Boys not only belts out his numbers ‘pitch-perfect', he also approaches the character with a vulnerability that adds another plane to his relationship with his brother. There's also an assured performance from Emma Rigby of Hollyoaks fame, whose Nurse Cherry brings the necessary light relief.
Wolfboy's transfer to London didn't surprise me and having reworked the piece since Edinburgh, Director Russell Labey delivers a stronger, sharper and much more dangerous production, where the stakes are elevated. Leon Parris' unnerving score sets the tone perfectly and whilst there ‘aint no jazz hands and tap shoe' numbers, the music stays with you long after the bows.
The Trafalgar Studio 2 venue adds to the claustrophobic mood, in what is an intense and powerful production, performed with passion and directed with expert precision. I was crushed. Once again.
Runs until 31st July 2010