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'Cuddles' returns to Ovalhouse from May 6.
From dangerous foreign outsider to sparkly teenagers on an abstinence trip, the figure of the vampire has offered a handy metaphor for all sorts of things. In ‘Cuddles’ it stands in for something altogether darker, as Joseph Wilde spins his disturbing tale of flint-hearted businesswoman Tabby and her secret sister, the bloodsucking Eve, who is stowed away in the attic.
We may begin with a ‘Once upon a time…’ but the fairytale patina is paper-thin, and darker strains of sexual and psychological abuse quickly bleed to the surface. Carla Langley is fantastically creepy as the child-like Eve, and Rendah Heywood is similarly impressive as her brittle sister. They skilfully mine the humour of Wilde’s script, as Tabby spins wild fantasies from banal reality and sits down with her feral sibling to play Monopoly.
Tautly directed by Rebecca Atkinson-Lord against a sickening, flyblown design from James Turner, ‘Cuddles’ is a smart and gruesome gothic tale that reveals Wilde as a writer with a great deal of confidence and nerve. Its finale is rather stretched and it could afford to say less than it does – the wrap-up is neater than it needs to be – but this is a full-blooded drama with ferocious bite.