Theatre Review: The Wolves treats theatre as team sport in Sydney

America has an interesting and contentious relationship with soccer. Where the world game has been at the centre of global sports (and often politics) for centuries, Americans sidelined the sport during the depression years, only to resurrect it in the 1960s as a high school game. With many young boys choosing American football (the nation’s claim to the name) basketball or baseball, soccer soon became the team sport of choice for girls (the country currently has more registered female players than all other nations combined).

With a culture that’s become central to suburbia, the middle classes and which gave us the Soccer Mom, the sport in America is a far cry from the male-dominated, corporate game which rules the rest of the world.

The Wolves is an indoor team of nine teenage girls, in no-name middle America. They’re a whirlwind conglomerate of personalities, abilities and ambitions, working towards a goal while simultaneously displaying individual prowess for a list of travelling college scouts. The economics of sport are subtly at play in a country where, for many, the best ticket to education is athletic talent. Over a series of pre-match drills, the girls discuss school, the future, assert social hierarchies and navigate a world into which they’ll soon be thrust headfirst.

Sarah De Lappe’s dialogue is extremely fast-paced, with multiple conversations at play in any given moment. Maya Keys’ set has the audience eavesdropping through an indoor soccer net, while spectating in the theatre’s risers, waiting for the game to begin. The language of the play takes a moment to settle into, but Jessica Arthur’s direction keeps it sharp and extremely tight. There’s no metaphor in ensemble acting being a team sport, and the entire cast drift through it like easy work. They display a diverse and deep range of characterisation, and a cohesion that’s rarely seen on stage.

Arthur has quite literally assembled a dream cast; a current hot-list of young Sydney actors. In a theatre scene where any one of them alone would demand your attendance (and attention) in any other production, they fail to upstage at any point.

Far from a coming-of-age story, the play is ultimately is a snapshot of contemporary America at a time when its young are inheriting, and dealing with, a broken system. While society at large often supposes that young women need our care, even protection, in The Wolves they’re doing just fine without us. With women at the forefront of change, our current schoolgirls are centering themselves as agents in a new order.

If you’re lucky enough to get tickets to the already almost sold-out season, be quick.

FIVE STARS OUT OF FIVE.

The Wolves plays at the Old Fitz Theatre until April 14th!