Wolf Whistle is Joanna Alpern’s newest work and the first, to my knowledge, that she has not personally directed. The show consists of three intertwining monologues delivered by three women—Amanda (Cara Mahoney), a hopeful medical student on a “triple extended gap year”; Becca (Cate Kelly), a sexually precocious schoolgirl; Claire (Fay Morrice), a sweet yet unconfident bus driver—who have all gone to see a doctor for the same reason. To put it succinctly, the production quality was exceptionally high throughout the whole show, which owes no small debt to Katherine Weight’s excellent direction.
All three actors did remarkably well in their roles, each exuding a tangible stage presence and enacting their parts with legitimacy and human warmth. Mahoney’s depiction of an obsessive-compulsive was convincing, especially her rapid-fire line delivery during Amanda’s more manic moments. Kelly began with a seemingly impenetrable veneer of confidence that wore away to reveal her character’s more naïve personality, and she accomplished this arc with considerable aplomb. Morrice’s easy-going, accepting demeanour was funny, yet tinged with sadness as Claire seemed incapable of accomplishing real change in her life.
A minor downside of the script is, surprisingly, that the sheer complexity of the characters’ individual personalities and their histories made it hard at times to keep track of everything that had happened to them. Nonetheless, having a continuous stream of dialogue between three actors was a highly ambitious model for a production, and ultimately it proved very successful. Sitting at the back of the theatre, Kelly’s pronunciation was sometimes a little unclear during the faster sections. Aside from these rare moments, the diction of the three actors was superb, which is all the more impressive considering the sheer volume of lines each of them had.
The set was by and large excellent, particularly Amanda’s study space, which included actual medical textbooks. I was a little puzzled by Becca’s location, as the white bench could have implied a doctor’s room or a locker room. Aside from that, the settings were believable and the actors made full use of the space they were in. The rapid transitions between the actors were ably achieved through Laras Yuniarto’s lighting, which seamlessly tied the monologues together. When Becca recounts her feelings of coming-up on Ecstasy, there was an accompanying increase of light that effectively represented a rush of serotonin.
This is Alpern’s best work to date. The narrative is highly engaging and kept me engrossed in the plot for the whole runtime. The dialogue is believable and creates genuine empathy for the characters onstage. The show was overall of a remarkably professional standard, tightly structured with no room for vast improvement. As I understand, the show has been chosen to represent Mermaids at the 2014 Fringe Festival; and Wolf Whistle is certainly a very good reason to visit Edinburgh this August.
Photo credits: Mathilde Johnsen, Maggie Pelta-Pauls