Wolf Lullaby is a tragedy that is inspired by real events. In England in 1968 an eleven year old girl was convicted of manslaughter for the deaths of two boys aged four and three. Wolf Lullaby is a dark play that is set in a country town in Tasmania and asks a lot of questions. The most important one being did nine-year old Lizzie Gael kill the toddler, Toby Chester?
The production is an adaptation of Hilary Bell’s play that debuted at Griffin Theatre in 1996. Bell is an accomplished playwright who was the Tennessee Williams Fellow in Creative writing at Tennessee’s University of the South from 2003-2004 and the Patrick White Playwriting Fellow in 2013.Her story is a shocking and absorbing tale that shares themes with Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, as both texts question whether children are born evil or if they’re products of poor upbringings.
Lizzie Gael is played here by relative newcomer, Maryellen George. The actress is an adult but she does a good job in capturing the curiosity and innocence of the nine-year old character. At first glance the golden-haired Lizzie is a spirited child but she does not seem capable of murder. She is however a lonely kid who craves attention and has been neglected by two selfish parents who have divorced but remain amicable.
The story begins rather ominously with dark and atmospheric sounds that are like a cross between thunder and a heartbeat. At other points in the story, children playing and chanting are used as sound effects. At times these can be taken to have sinister undertones while at other moments they appear at least on the surface to be carefree and fun.
In this rural Tasmanian town, Lizzie and her friends discover the body of Toby Chester, a toddler that was suffocated and mutilated. The children don’t go immediately to tell the police about the body and instead wait until a few days later. When the authorities start investigating the matter it seems that the wounds on the body indicate that the murderer was a kid.
Lizzie’s parents, Angela (Lucy Miller) and Warren (David Woodland) are brought in for questioning by Sergeant Ray Armstrong (Peter Mcallum). This is not the first time that Lizzie has had a run-in with the police, she had previously been busted for shoplifting and wagging school. Her parents are initially dismissive of her capacity to perform such an evil act but then her mother starts to find clues that could indicate Lizzie’s guilt in the murder case.
This play is a suspenseful one that will force the audience to ask as many questions as Lizzie’s parents. It is frightening and explores things like responsibility, the truth, lies, neglect, innocence, brutality and love. The story is a dark one that is scary and spine-tingling thanks to a great cast putting in superb and realistic performances, as well as its being inspired by real-life events.
Wolf Lullaby uses many different facets of the set and like the story itself, boasts lots of different layers and dimensions. It is a sad tale that questions what impacts us most, nature or nurture, as well as the power and responsibilities parents face in having to love and protect their children. Ultimately, this tense drama and mystery will stay and challenge you long after you’ve left the theatre.
Originally published on 24 August 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/wolf-lullaby-new-theatre-newtown-performances-until-september-13
Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/