Improbable / National Theatre of Scotland, Wolves in the Walls

Review in Issue 18-4 | Winter 2006

Wolves in the Wall is the first touring production of the National Theatre of Scotland, a music theatre piece designed and codirected by Improbable’s Julian Crouch, who takes as his aesthetic the illustrations of the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. The set is a fantastic shape-shifting house - one lovely scene has heroine Lucy in an upright bed, so that we reappraise our perspective of where the walls and floor are placed. The Wolves - who live behind the wall and, as Lucy predicts, eventually erupt to terrorise the family-are gorgeously wild and woolly, operated with hands in mouths, or placed over performers’ heads to become all but whole body masks. Unfortunately, however, the production doesn’t live up to the high design standards, despite co-direction from Vicky Featherstone and the blessing of author Neil Gaiman. It sounds from media reports that the process of making the piece was a lovely experience; but I’m afraid the final product doesn’t knock you off your feet. There are a number of reasons for this: although it’s a strong cast, Frances Thorburn, who plays Lucy, is just not convincing as a pre-pubescent girl; there aren’t any really memorable tunes (and if you take the mainstream musical option you really do need tunes), the story as presented lacks any sense of darkness or danger; the wolves, despite the fabulous designs which look great in stills, are terribly disappointing onstage-mostly because there are no competent puppeteers involved to animate them, so they never become anything more than rag toys. It’s not that it was a bad show, just that as a fan of Gaiman’s quirky fantasy tales, and a long-time admirer of Improbable, I had high hopes of witnessing a fabulous piece of theatre as a result of this collaboration - and that wasn’t my experience. Oh well.

Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Apr 2006

This article in the magazine

Issue 18-4
p. 29