Father Nandru and the Wolves

  • Theatre
  • Drama
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'Father Nandru and the Wolves'

As folk fables go, ‘Father Nandru and the Wolves’ is pretty out-there. With all the hallucinations, talking wolves and dancing goats, you’d be forgiven for thinking the characters in this puppet-centric play had been running about their local Transylvanian woods picking mushrooms – and not the sort you sauté.

That you’re never quite sure what’s coming next is one of the charms of this tale, which is set during the tail end of CeauČ™escu’s bulldozing of ‘superfluous’ towns and villages in the Romanian countryside during the ’70s.

The problem, though, come from the story’s plodding pace and many different strands that dilute the plot’s focus. We start with a priest in a 500-year-old log church who has to contend with divides between Gypsies and non-Gypsies in his congregation. Father Nandru, who likes the sauce, keeps being visited by huge wolves which offer answers to his many conundrums. When he manages to reconcile the community through a Romeo and Juliet-style marriage it unites them all against the regime and they perform one final, remarkable act of protest.

Julian Garner, who has also written the script, directs a production with some great puppets. There’s hulking furry wolves, massive bulldozers, small people and giant people. Their makeshift, imaginative charm will most likely delight both kids and adults in equal measure. But they’re just not enough to rein in the sprawling narrative. A contemplative and stumbling Jonathan Stone as Father Nandru also doesn’t help to speed proceedings up.

Like the puppets, the traditional Gypsy music is a treat, but there should have been more work on the storytelling and less on the fun extras: it’s an intriguing tale, it’s just not told very clearly.

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