Cuddles - theatre review

Since Twilight burst onto the scene, vampires were thrust into the sunlight of teen pop culture. It was there they seemed to die a horrific, fire-y death. The ‘Creatures of the Night’ quickly lost their ability to inspire terror with their blood-sucking, animalistic tendencies, and instead became moony, glittery (and slightly stalker-y) boyfriend types.

Thank goodness Joseph Wilde came along and wrote his first full-length play Cuddles.

As Cuddles begins, we are introduced to Eve – a good teenage vampire girl, happily engrossed in her stories and books. The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Greek Mythology – these stories inform and create her small, bedroom-sized world. Big sister Tabby has always looked after her since their Mother left and Daddy died and subsequently has always provided her with what she needs – blood. That is until one day when Tabby decides enough is enough.

Wilde’s writing is simply fantastic. It’s fast-paced, funny and fresh. The traded barbs between sisters are exquisite, perfectly capturing sisterly love and frustration in equal measure. Their sarcastic banter mixed with their shared fairytale language creates a brilliant and believable relationship, expertly realised by Carla Langley and Rendah Heywood.

Langley as Eve is beautifully feral and sweetly adorable. Her control over her physicality is effortless, and she swings from terrified child, to sexually frustrated teen, to disturbing animal with ease. Rendah Heywood is perfectly cast as Tabby, our Briar Rose – both thorny and beautiful. Heywood’s comedy timing is spot on, and she admirably holds up several scenes with boyfriend ‘Steve’ who never appears physically on stage. Both Langley and Heywood are mesmerising and charge each scene with focus and intensity.

Director Rebecca Atkinson-Lord keeps the pace quick and the blocking compelling, whilst the design and lighting design by James Turner and Pablo Baz respectively truly brings Eve’s bedroom alive. Little details hide everywhere, hidden in and amongst Eve’s books and the grubby leaf-strewn floor. Baz’s lighting is thrilling and innovative. Mention must also be made of Sound Designer Edward Lewis, whose repetitive heartbeat and terrifying final soundscape followed me all the way home and into my nightmares.

Probably not one for the very squeamish (the girl next to me looked rather green...) Cuddles is a wonderful modern morality tale. It is deeply layered and touches themes as diverse as abortion, the care system and greed. We are left wondering whether it is those who believe in fairy tales and monsters who are misguided, or the ones that create the stories who are the beasts in the night...

You should see this play. I would also thoroughly recommend the post-show discussion on the 22nd May entitled Consumer Kids: Youth Culture and Consumerism, free to those attending Cuddles that night. With writer Joseph Wilde and a whole host of other brilliant guests on the panel, it guarantees to be a fitting and interesting post-script to Cuddles. For more information, see the Ovalhouse website.

Oh, and whilst you’re there, check out the rest of the Gods and Monsters season – it looks terrifying and terrific.

© Carly Halse 2013
Reviewed on 15th May 2013

Tues 14th May – 1st June 2013
80 minutes – no interval


Eve – Carla Langley
Tabby – Rendah Heywood

Creative and Production Team
Writer – Joseph Wilde
Director – Rebecca Atkinson-Lord
Designer – James Turner
Lighting Designer – Pablo Baz
Sound Designer – Edward Lewis
Stage Manager on book – Emily Russell
Assistant Director – Celeste Dring
Producer – Lucy Jackson
Fight Director – Mathew McKay
Scenic Artist – Robyn Kahn-Cleland
Assistant Producer – Zadie Ward
Publicity and Production Photographs – Alex Beckett
Rehearsal Photographs – Paul Fox

As part of the Gods and Monsters Season at Ovalhouse -

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