Youth theatre can often feel a little too earnest, a little too zealous – but from the first minute, the Hungry Wolf company proved beyond doubt that they were the exception to that rule. This is a group of extremely talented and versatile performers, who’ve created an engaging and absorbing piece of theatre.
We witness a snippet of a school day, and the dynamics that exist within a teenage girls’ classroom. There are obvious alliances between some of the young women – almost bordering on romantic friendships – and alongside that, there’s the familiar bravado of youth, the need not to lose face in front of others.
The all-female cast took the stage by storm and, when each character is so strong, it’s hard to single anyone out as better than another. All the expected personalities were there, neatly slotted within the usual school pecking order, and I was pulled into the story by each and every one of them. The new kid on the block, the 'Billy No Mates', the class joker, the posh boffin and the trouble-maker… and of course, the inevitable school bully. There is a deep, psychologically-disturbed aspect to the leader of the pack, whose cold threats form a menacing reality in the classmates’ daily lives. Even when she isn’t present, the knowledge of her and her legacy hangs over the scene.
The action moves seamlessly from early comic genius in the beginning, to an atmosphere by the end very close to subtle terror. The highly-charged fight scene is shocking to witness, and the acting so powerful it’s almost too painful to watch. I had no idea where the story was going to go or how it was going to end.
And the final scene extracted an audible gasp from the audience. It was moving, emotional and tragic all in one, and I was left with a feeling of hopelessness for the girls’ inevitable futures. The performance raises the age-old problem of mob psychology: how people believe there is safety in numbers, and will follow the pack rather than stand alone, even when they witness something that they don't like or agree with. And it highlights the damage that this can do to individuals’ lives.
The combination of a gifted cast, great direction and a clever piece of writing, means this production is a winner for me. I was surrounded by some glowing parents – and I say, yes, be proud. Be very proud of this excellent piece of theatre, and of all of the young women who performed in it.