Review: Wolf Lullaby
How do they go on? The grace with which some parents of murdered children explain their pain confounds me.I’ve always thought the heartbreak must be relentless. So how might a couple come to terms with their child killing another child? Wolf Lullaby is a parent’s horror story that attempts to get inside the head of one young culprit.
Hillary Bell’s play premiered at the SBW Stables in the mid-90s. At that time the recent murder of 3-year-old James Bulger was still fresh in our minds. The grainy CCTV of the toddler being lured away from his mother in a shopping mall by two ten-year-old boys was seen around the world. Bell also draws from an earlier case of 11-year-old Mary Bell, who in the late 1960s, was convicted of strangling two small boys. No doubt there are other incidents of which I’m unaware but they have inspired this writer to explore the incomprehensible.
The setting is small town Tasmania. Nine-year-old Lizzie Gael (Maryellen George) lives with her hairdresser mother Angela (Lucy Miller), who is amicably separated from Lizzie’s father Warren (David Woodland). Lizzie’s flirtation with shoplifting has already brought her to the attention of the local police sergeant played by Peter McAllum. And then a young boy is found dead.
George as Lizzie made me lose sight of the fact I was watching an adult actor. After the first few scenes I started seeing the kid. It was my way into the play and it kept me there. Lizzie is precocious and getting up to mischief but then there is a tingling of alarm that snakes down your spine and you’re aware this youngster’s behaviour hints at darker deeds.Later, the bewilderment this young girl feels, unable to understand her actions or deal with the repercussions is very well played.
First time director Emma Louise does a good job with a work thatoften feels more like a piece of research than a play. She also elicits solid, naturalistic performances from Miller, Woodland and McAllum. Alan Walpole has designed an attractive and purposeful set.
A satisfying production of a powerful, if flawed, tragedy.
[Top Image] Wolf Lullaby. Photo: Bob Seary
Wolf Lullaby plays at New Theatre until 13 September. Bookings:www.newtheatre.org.au