Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Title: Wolves In The Wall
Author: Neil Gaiman
Date/Venue: 1st April 2006 - Tramway
Presented by: National Theatre Scotland/Improbable

Lucy lives in a house. Like any other house. Except it’s her house. Her dad plays his tuba. Her mum makes jam. Her brother plays computer games. But Lucy is bored. At night, she lies in bed, clinging to her pig puppet, listening to the sounds of scraping and scratching. There are wolves in the walls! That’s what she tells her mum. Mice, mice, she says. That’s what she tells her dad. Rats, rats, he says. That’s what she tells her brother. Bats, bats, he says. There are bats in the wall? She asks her brother. No, you're bats, he clarifies. But there are wolves in the walls. And if the wolves come out of the walls, then its all over, everyone says so.

The National Theatre group of Scotland has taken Neil Gaiman's children's book The Wolves in the Walls and made it into a musical. A process that the writer Gaiman seems to have had a reasonable amount of input in, judging by his comments on his blog. Aimed at children there is a certain creepiness that comes from the wolves, though apparently this has been toned down, since preview performances seemed to leave too many kids traumatised. The show has been showing in Glasgow for a week or so now, with another week to go before touring round Scotland, plus a week in London before the end of April.

Despite knowing that it was a musical going in, there was a still a moment as Lucy bursts into song right at the start where a voice in my head goes "its a bloody musical!” But I settled into it, aided by the slick and clever staging. No doubt the stage set up will vary from venue to venue, but the tramway in Glasgow has a large stage space, which allows for the flexible kind of set up in use here. Behind the curtain we see a series of cartoon houses, getting bigger and bigger, until we have a house the characters can wander about. The walls rotating for room changes, and to allow for sinister action. there is an 8 strong cast, the 4 member family plus the stage-hands/wolves who float about the stage making things happen and operate the wolf puppets - particularly scraggy and children's book looking creatures indeed. The performance is accompanied by a 4 piece band on the left hand of the stage, providing live music for the songs, and someone signing for the deaf on the right hand of the stage (something which I’ve never seen in the theatre before).

The Wolves In The Wall is the busiest I have seen the Tramway. A good mix of people turned out, and appropriately a lot of them were children. The performance is chaotic and silly, and quite a bit of fun.

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