Anna Chancellor stars in Rory Mullarkey’s surreal, timely black comedy about an uprising of middle England’s ‘silent majority’.
‘We’ve chosen to send a message,’ declares Anna Chancellor’s terror state founder as she orders her henchman to hack an innocent Briton’s head off in Rory Mullarkey’s ‘The Wolf from the Door’.
Clearly written some time before the world had heard of Islamic State, I couldn’t quite work out whether Mullarkey’s gallopingly surreal black comedy has gained stature or seen its original intent obfuscated by recent events in Iraq and Syria – certainly I think I might have assessed it on its own terms more easily if the arbitrary execution of a Tesco deputy manager didn’t immediately make me think of poor David Haines.
I’m certainly not suggesting that James Macdonald’s lo-fi, non-graphic production is inappropriate; it’s more a case that events have pointedly caught up with it.
Formally, it’s a 16-act road trip that sees Chancellor’s aristocratic Catherine (‘I’m extremely rich because of old money’) team up with Calvin Demba’s blank slate young Leo (no surname, no past, no particular opinions) as she heads towards the capital to lead a violent grassroots uprising of middle England’s ‘silent majority’: WI members, historical re-enactors, village vicars, Morris dancers and others join in a brutal overthrow of the established political order, the revolution’s toff leaders all insisting that they go up against the wall when the task is done.
On one level, I think the play functions simply as a comic, Monty Python-esque riff on what would happen if the outrage expressed in the Daily Mail boiled over into armed insurrection. Perhaps more earnestly, it asks whether a post-revolutionary, classless society that was all ideology and no compassion would be desirable. And finally, there’s the Middle Eastern parallel – how no society is really that far from collapse, how it’s the people you see on the street every day who may be the ones to burn it down.
Funny, provocative and engagingly eccentric, ‘The Wolf from the Door’ has a neato village-fête design from Tom Pye, and boasts fine performances from the arch Chancellor and extremely amusing supporting player Pearce Quigley. But it’s also cold, crass and not exactly loveable, with a definite sub-Caryl Churchill air to it. The good outweighs the bad, however, and, by accident or design, its time is probably now.