Reviewed – 14th December 2017
“Imagination is lacking with the staging as considering this is meant to be up a mountain, it all feels very flat”
White Fang, written and directed by Jethro Compton, is the story of Lizbet, a young Native American girl and her wolf. She is a cold and courageous hunter navigating her outcast place in a society set against her.
The ensemble cast are strong, however the play is predictable in narrative and dramatic clichés. The puppetry has potential but I fear I have been spoilt by seeing Gyre and Gimble’s wolf in The Grinning Man, which is designed and controlled with more characterisation. The stage is also too small for the puppet when accompanied by two puppeteers.
The fierce female friendship between Lizbet (Mariska Ariya) and Curly (Bebe Sanders) is mistaken for love in this story and the romantic elements of the characters’ relationship feel forced. Although they kiss, they do not ever embrace, even facing the threat of death. Sanders is talented but the character is given no back story at all, and the audience know nothing about her except her apparent fondness for Lizbet.
The text includes some witty lines – ‘Learn to drink; or learn to drink less’ and the show is accompanied by beautifully lyrical songs (Gavin Whitworth) with intricate harmonies (lovely bass from Paul Alberton). Lighting is nicely done (Julian McCready) and hints at the vast coldness of the Canadian wilderness. Some sound effects (Juan Coolio) are overly synthetic in the space, particularly the whistling wind and wolves howling off-stage.
The set of the cabin (Jethro Compton) is a stark and bare refuge from the cold that fits the purpose for the indoor action. However, it is so large that only a tiny portion of the stage is left in front for all the outdoor scenes. The noisy brown curtains do not do justice to the landscapes of the programme, and the lack of space and levels mean a huge amount of action (particularly on the floor) is completely lost on me, despite my best neck-craning. Imagination is lacking with the staging as considering this is meant to be up a mountain, it all feels very flat. Just a little height would go a long way.
I hope the company are given the means to expand the play to better portray its surroundings. It needs a stage triple the size and height, with snow and ice to really portray the ‘arctic black’. It would make a wonderful outdoor show, connecting us with the cruel winter it currently struggles to present on-stage. Snow was disappointingly absent, particularly as it is present through all the programme images.
White Fang has promise but the staging unfortunately lets it down.
Reviewed by TheatreFox
Photography by Jethro Compton
is at the Park Theatre until 13th January 2018