David Lan's new version of Giovanni Verga's 1896 drama, "La Lupa" (Translated as The She-Wolf), has transferred to the Barbican Pit, after a run at the Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, in June last year. This tragic psychological play is a powerful piece of theatre that cannot fail to grip you.
Anyone familiar with the Barbican Pit will be surprised to see that the auditorium has changed quite a bit. It no longer has seating on three sides and the walls are no longer black. The RSC has changed the seating to the conventional, seats at the front only, and all the walls have been painted white giving the space a 'white box' look. While the new seating arrangement is fine, I do not like the white walls, particularly for this play as the old dark pit would have been more in tone with the subject and added to the atmosphere.
The story concerns the sexual maniacal relationship between a mother and daughter and a man they both love.
'Pina', who is described as a dangerous She-Wolf by the village people, is obsessed with 'Nanni', a hard working, but penniless man. However, he desires her daughter 'Mara' more than her. In a 'kind of warped manner' she decides to offer her daughter 's hand in marriage to 'Nanni', along with everything she owns, her land and house. When 'Nanni' marries 'Mara' and has children, 'Pina' won't leave them alone as her love for 'Nanni' is too great. This results in a triangular relationship that hurtles towards tragedy for all.
This is a compelling drama that slowly builds the tension. It starts jolly with dancing and singing and then gradually develops into a battle of wills for the three main characters, fighting their Christian beliefs along with their temptations, culminating in a decisive ending!
Brid Brennan as 'Pina' puts in a compelling performance as a widow who sacrifices everything for the man she loves. She succeeds in drawing you into her character so that you feel 'Pina's' torment and the anguish of her self-destructive actions. How many of us have a little of 'Pina' in us? How far have we gone in the name of love? Declan Conlon performs well in the role of 'Nanni', a man who is bewitched with 'Pina' yet desires her daughter, thus consuming himself and those close to him. Mali Harries is adequate as 'Mara', who at first did not want 'Nanni', but grew to love him, resulting in her disowning her mother thus escalating her mother's decent into 'madness'.
This Stratford transfer has received reasonable notices from the popular press….. BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "The revival's main weakness, an engulfing Englishness, has not been overcome (since its transfer from Stratford), yet it has acquired a quiet intensity that does much to compensate." KATE KELLAWAY for THE OBSERVER says "This slender tragedy… is expertly translated by David Lan. His aridly prosaic style has a power of its own; there is no decoration to distract. SHERIDAN MORLEY for TELETEXT says, "This is one of those maddening plays which promises on the page to be a great and timely rediscovery. Then on stage, it turns out to be, if not unplayable, at least alien to local actors and audiences alike." BEN DOWELL for THE STAGE says, "This is an oblique and difficult play but nonetheless endlessly thought-provoking." JANE EDWARDES for TIME OUT says, "Not exactly a howling success, but weirdly compelling all the same."
Lasting just over an hour-and-a-half, without an interval, this is a thought provoking drama that will taunt you!
(Production pictures provided by EPO)