Attack Of The Wolfdogs (Review – Online)

Attack Of The Wolfdogs (Review – Online)

A couple of weeks ago I tried my hand at a pair of site specific audio plays set in north London’s Abney Park cemetery. These played out while getting some outdoor exercise and providing some interesting points about local history. I’ve been casting round for more in the same vein and came across Thick Skin’s Walk This Play but it seemed rather a long way to go to head for Manchester, Huddersfield or Edinburgh where the content for these is set. Fortunately, something nearer was at hand in the shape of the Unicorn Theatre’s play Attack Of The Wolfdogs. Although aimed primarily at 7-11 year olds a short walk around the environs of Southwark seemed appealing.

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The piece created by Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari starts outside the Unicorn itself and lasts about 45 minutes. Given the target age range it sensibly sticks largely to pedestrianised areas through Potters Field, by the side of the Thames and along the cobbled streets of Shad Thames where the old shipping warehouses form an appropriately sinister backdrop. I set out as darkness was falling which added greatly to the atmosphere, though if you’re taking children that might not be quite such a sensible move. And if you are taking children, try to gather a few of them (a school class is ideal for this) as it is almost certainly much more fun for the participants if they can interact with others as the audio repeatedly suggests.

The play begins straightforwardly enough as a standard audio guided tour of the area but gradually a fantastical story breaks through; one which harks back to London in olden times and takes in the legend of Bran and the derivation of the Tower of London directly across the river. It seems that denizens of these ancient days, the Wolfdogs and the Shapeshifters, are plotting to break through into this world in a bid for power and that this will centre on the subterranean river the Neckinger which emerges into the Thames in this vicinity. All that stands in their way is us and so our mission is to neutralise their attempt guided by the Bears who stand in opposition. Following their instructions will have you crouching to avoid danger, scurrying around corners to hide and all other manner of physical activity.

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If you’re prepared to let your imagination go (and, of course, most children are) it’s a great experience, wonderfully enhanced by the evocative soundscapes of Nicola T. Chang who seems to be the “go to” person for this type of thing. The section where you creep along the cobbled Shad Thames hiding from the enemy agents beneath the various portage bridges is particularly well realised. And the final audio battle with the forces of evil is a thrill ride for the ears. Unlike my previous outing, the audio for this isn’t linked to GPS so I did find myself geographically getting ahead of the narrative at one or two points – I kept forgetting that the targeted age group would have shorter legs than mine – and I did have trouble finding one or two of the signposted clues in the gathering gloom. Adults might be well advised to do a dry run to work out where everything is before setting off with youngsters.

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Those caveats aside this is a well thought out and realised production which will both entertain and educate providing a springboard for creative follow up work – stories, art work, poetry, drama, etc. both in school and at home. It will keep younger participants active and engaged throughout and is a nice workout for both your legs and your imagination.

Attack Of the Wolfdogs is available via the Unicorn Theatre website – click here

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