Wolf Meat is a trouser-ripping side-splitting romp through Grandma Croydon’s twisted world of sex and drugs, pinching inspiration from fairy tales like Red Riding Hood and Cinderella, and cutting them with cop dramas and enough nods and winks, theatrical asides, thigh-wobble-claps, and other shocking surprises to take the legs out from beneath a less accomplished theatrical beast.
The company, under the direction of Complicite’s Mick Barnfather, have trained and worked together in the world of Clown, Bouffon and Commedia Del Arte, and they are well ‘up for’ and ‘up to’ the theatrical gymnastics that the show demands. Wolf Meat takes a few minutes to warm up, and then ramps up to deliver a thrilling roller-coaster of drama, horror and delight, keeping us in suspense (and – sorry –suspenders).
As we enter the theatre, Grandma is already seated in the audience, making a palaver out of a trip to the loo. Promising us not only a show, but a theatrical masterclass too, she negotiates her zimmer frame and herself up the high step onto the stage, treating the audience to an eyeful of rump twerking as she goes.
This irreverent, manipulative old woman (played by Mella Faye Punchard) has a very naughty twinkle in her eye – a twinkle that she acts upon whenever she gets the chance, ‘Give old granny a kiss!’ she demands of grandson Wolfy (Oliver Harrison) before deftly spinning her head round and slipping out her tongue as an apprehensive Wolfy approaches her with caution. This sets the tone of the piece and the cast take every opportunity to be be rude, twisted, debauched and depraved as they set about their mission to shock and stir their audiences with ridiculous humour and theatrical anarchy.
Grandma’s husband Derek (musician Alex Stanford), largely ignored, is seated at a chemistry bench amidst clouds of smoke, making drugs and delivering the music which underlines the show. Petunia Berg (Katie Grace Cooper) enters the scene – supposedly an old relative with no one to inherit her 4.3 million pounds – and enquires about the nature of Grandma Croydon’s family business. She is waited on by Luna, (Carla Espinoza) a bruised and medicated Cinderella. ‘You look like a user’ declares Wolfy, dealer for the Croydon empire, as he climbs off the stage towards an unsuspecting audience member. ‘Lick your finger – you first’ he says as the audience member tastes the goods, and the cast sing their Class A song.
With the others out of the room Luna discovers Petunia’s truth, she is undercover cop Dawn Taylor: ’MI5, MI6 M25 A12 Junction 17’, and she’s out to get Grandma! ‘That was the dramatic part I told you about’, says Grandma Croydon following a particularly harrowing scene where increasingly troublesome Luna is held down, forcibly drugged and dragged off to her room. The audience is silent, shocked. ‘All part of the masterclass.’ says Grandma.
The plot gallops along, twisting and turning and gathering pace, the audience gasps (no really!) and all too soon it’s over. Leaving the theatre I hear an audience member ask her mate for a verdict, ‘Wild’, she said, ’10 out of 10’. I totally agree. The performers delivered fantastic 3D characters in a slapstick driven, over-the-top world. Silly, playful, intoxicating, and strangely moving.