The Wolves in the Walls

Written by Neil Gaiman, Directed by Vicky Featherstone and Julian Crouch
Improbable Theatre, National Theatre of Scotland
Liverpool Playhouse (7th-11th November 2006)

Reviewed by Mark Langshaw

Celebrated science fiction writer Neil Gaiman has turned his attention to theatre with a musical adaptation of his and Dave McKean’s popular children’s picture book, The Wolves in the Walls.

This co-production between National Theatre of Scotland and Improbable Theatre is a stylishly crafted dichotomy of fear and sanctuary, but first and foremost a family opera following the story of Lucy (Frances Thorburn), a fanciful young girl shunned by her inwardly focused family. Lucy knows there is something different and strange about her seemingly ordinary house. Despite her family’s initial dismissive behaviour, she is adamant there are wolves living in the walls. The wolves are about to come out, and bring pandemonium with them.

A young child’s attachment to their home, the loneliness of modern family life and facing one’s fears are all major themes here. Frances Thorburn does a terrific job in the lead role and is carried well by the supporting cast. Cora Bisset and Iain Johnstone bring out the parental flaws of their characters whilst maintaining a wholly likeable image, while Ryan Fletcher is the quintessential irritating big brother. The wolves do a bang up job too - there wasn’t a child in the audience who will have slept soundly that night.

Nick Powell’s musical score is flawless but tame, creating a dissonance between itself and the chaos on stage. The shows biggest accomplishment is its use of sophisticated lighting and sound techniques to conjure up an air of magic. With a running time of just seventy minutes, the show reaches a satisfying conclusion before it begins to sag.

If The Wolves in the Walls has one draw back it is its limited appeal to hardcore Neil Gaiman fans. The show, being predominantly aimed at children, will fall well short of satisfying those who have grown up on his cult Sandman comic series.

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