Written by Isla Cowan
Directed by Joanna Bowman
Our ancient connection with lycanthropic tendencies to express raw and primal rages fuses with ease to critique our socioeconomic and systemically alienating class system and gender studies. We’ve all wanted to howl with anger, and now, unable to hold back any longer – the restrictions of humanity are stripped back to allow this wolf to prowl. She Wolf, created and performed by Edinburgh-based theatre maker Isla Cowan, awakens a more thought-provoking response of visceral aggression.
Spending her free time sneaking into the zoo and watching the Wolf enclosure, Maggie finds a brief solace away from the falsehoods and expectations of the contemporary world around her. One where cronyism infects her work and a deadbeat boyfriend wants ‘something more’, this brief time spent with these majestic creatures reminds her of happier times, possibilities, and of lost opportunities.
We, the audience, are these confined wolves – but it is Maggie who is truly under observation. A connection is forged with Cowan and viewers, an understanding of sorts, where vulnerability and unpredictability fuel She Wolf’s energy. Attempting to make sense of, and grasp her life by the scruff of the neck, thrusting it in the right direction. But as the hairs on the back of her neck thicken, and teeth elongate, perhaps tapping into this more archaic rage is having additional consequences for Maggie.
Channelling this transition effectively, and with both a measure of beauty and terror, Cowan’s additional physical elements are understated and effective. How easy it would be to snarl or bray, choosing instead to find a middle ground at a wolf’s most dangerous state; indomitable, but vulnerable. Joanna Bowman’s physical direction is a real winner for the show, stitched together with Richard Bell’s nonintrusive sound design to really solidify things, and even force audiences to question their own sanity.
But as the cycle of competition and fight to survive heightens, enraged by the continued weight of the table, the classism and privilege, by the indoctrinated male dominance and expectation – one can hardly blame Maggie for refusing to restrain herself. Similarly trapped in a cycle, however, Cowan does re-tread similar steps to the otherwise captivating monologue – where the aggression and frustrations build with such volatility, that it feels that the flow is deliberately rolled back to ensure the ’moment’ of release is kept at bay a little longer.
Fight, Flight, Freeze. Three choices women find themselves with during dangerous situations. Shifting the dynamics of storytelling from career paths and relationships to the more harrowing and uncomfortable truths of symbolically tying hunting pack animals to men’s attitudes toward ‘prey’ in nightclubs and bars, She Wolf is a captivating, and raw piece of theatre that bears no grudges, speaking only truth.
In a world where some are told it isn’t for them, sometimes the only choice left is to reclaim what was once yours. For the wolves – it could be the wilds of their homeland. For woman. Well, where to even start?
‘Indomitable, yet vulnerable’
She Wolf runs at the Assembly Roxy until August 28th (not 15th or 22nd)
Tickets for which may be obtained here.