With time fast running out for reviewing Edinburgh Fringe material, my full intention yesterday was to work my way through a couple of shows. However, the first, Wolf by Lewis Doherty, was such a breathless adrenaline rush that I didn’t really think I’d be able to concentrate on anything else. I only came across Doherty fairly recently on Gigglemug’s Agatha Christie audio pastiche Murder On The 12:32 To Bristol and was pretty impressed by that; the actor plays at least a dozen roles with a high degree of vocal wizardry. Well, that’s nothing to Wolf where it’s more like thirty … and it’s a relentlessly physical tour de force … and he supplies 90% of the sound effects using just his vocal talents; he even has a hand (literally) in creating some of the lighting effects by deploying a couple of bicycle lamps. It truly is a one man show.
It’s pastiche time again with an action filled crime movie extravaganza using every cliché in the book, but it’s done with such loving detail that it becomes a thing of joy. Central character and maverick cop/ex-cop (couldn’t quite fathom this) Patrick Wolf returns to Shadow City to investigate the untimely death of partner Jay Walker. He is soon tussling with the dark underbelly of this delinquent and crime riddled metropolis encountering hit men, criminal overlords, bank robbers, drug pushers, strip club owners, corrupt police and just for good measure a mutant ninja cyborg. And Doherty plays the lot and more, such as the first time daters Shelly and Carl and the man who lives on the streets with only his collection of named tin cans for company. Quite apart from the extraordinarily diverse vocal impersonations on display there is also the extraordinary ability to create a whole raft of sound effects. Physicality tops off the mix as Doherty instantly transforms into the various characters that live, and quite often die, as part of the narrative. He has something of the shape shifter about him and is as convincing as a young female bank employee as he is at being the rather prim chief villain (British, of course) . A couple of my favourite characters were the police chief – clearly modelled on Jack Nicholson – and Mexican night club owner Magic Man – his trick is to make lines of coke disappear.
If you lose track of the plot, and you probably will, it really doesn’t matter. It’s all such a whirlwind of an experience you can just revel in the way it’s put over. And that, in one sense, couldn’t be simpler. Doherty uses just a single chair to create every location. Armed with just this, the bicycle lights and his superlative vocal dexterity he recreates the staples of the genre with shoot outs, fist fights (complete with slow-mo moments), car chases, overhead shots from a helicopter and a mesmerising underwater sequence. You can fill in the rest of the blanks yourself because the actor probably has it covered. I can only imagine what fun he must have had as a child recreating whole worlds to inhabit.
Wolf was premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 and was a sell out on word of mouth alone; I can’t say I’m surprised. It is the first part of Doherty’s Beast trilogy, the others being Boar and Hawk in which he takes down other big budget film genres and I’d love to see those, particularly live, so I’ve already hit the follow button on Twitter to make sure that I keep up to date with any news. I’m not quite sure how Doherty’s work has passed me by so far but I’m very grateful to have finally discovered it. Watching the show is an exhausting experience, though probably somewhat more so for the performer who barely pauses for breath. Even so I still feel the need of a restorative lie down before hitting the schedule once more.
Today’s bonus Scenes For Survival piece is The Park. Lockdown was hard for everyone but how do you explain to a 5 year old and a 2 year old that the playground in the local park has been locked down for the duration? Martin McCormick features as a young father in a piece by Andy McGregor; the latter’s children also appear. Fortunately, it all ends positively.
Wolf streamed live as part of the online Shedinburgh Festival – click here
Although Shedinburgh shows are one off live streams they have five of their earlier pieces available on demand for the next few days – click here
Scenes For Survival pieces are available from the NTS website – click here; a number are also available on BBC iPlayer – click here
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