Children of the Wolf
By John Peacock
Dir: David Draper
Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth
November 7-12 2022
Which of us as teenagers hasn’t felt the need to lecture our parents on their supposed moral failings, or indeed as adult parents been on the receiving end at some time? John Peacock’s play at The Talisman, Kenilworth, Children of the Wolf, is an extended rant by Linda (Paige Phelps) and her brother Robin (Laurie Weston) against their mother Helena (Dawn Morris) for trying to abandon them in a late-stage abortion. You’d think this might give them cause for complaint, but instead the play, and Linda’s character in particular, is full of moral vacuousness in its own right.
The play is set in a single upstairs room in a semi-derelict house where Helena had first met Michael, Helena’s former lover and father of the two children, and to which she has been lured by the children, now aged 21. But Linda has masterminded a
revenge so hysterical, so twisted, and so drawn out that at some point shortly into the second half I began to wish that the abortion had succeeded.
The two children were allegedly deprived of oxygen at birth, and indeed Robin seems like a young man afflicted by mild learning disabilities. Linda, however, is entirely psychotic, a scheming creature hell bent on revenge for not having been loved in her youth.
Bit by bit they reveal the reason for their deception, and the dreadful thing they are going to do to their mother as a consequence. Which in the end they do. It’s a gory, sadistic little play that makes much of moral approbation against their mother’s sexuality.
If a thriller is to work, we have to have some reason to like the villain, or at least sympathise with them, even if only a little. But if a character is consistently repugnant then the result is not tension but tedium. Linda’s screaming and Helena’s bewildered responses
grated on me, and the only thing that redeemed the experience was Laurie Weston’s sensitive playing of the bullied little brother. His performance carried much needed light and shade in what was otherwise for me a play full of darkness that was neither absorbing nor revelatory.