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CUDDLES – Ovalhouse, London.

CuddlesThe words “Once upon a time” can be the start of a fairy story, or a twisted way of leading an audience down a dark path. Cuddles at the Ovalhouse skilfully weaves the two together in such a way that would make Grimm Brothers themselves proud.

Vampire Eve knows the four walls of the “castle’s” attic, and the rules her sister Tabby has taught her. Stuck in their folie a deux in James Turner’s set of old newspapers plastered on the floor, reminiscent of a rodent’s cage, along with the creepy crayon drawings on the walls, everything about the production is unnerving from the very start.

Carla Langley as Eve has a disturbing, radiant quality about her. Though she is covered in dirt and blood, when Tabby’s magic works on her she shines in the make-believe sunshine (don’t worry, there’s no Twilight reference here!). Rendah Heywood has a touch of Wednesday Addams about her, with her long, raven hair and sharp tongue. The tension between the two bubbles continuously throughout the piece, neither of the girls knowing who is really in control, or who’s more afraid of the other. It’s this atmosphere that makes you spend the entire show on the edge of your seat, because even if they’re just playing monopoly there’s a chance that something could explode at the drop of a hat.

As confusing as everything in Eve’s world is, so the audience are equally unsure. Blonde, barely clothed and comforted by a life where “the green bucket is for wee and the red bucket is for poo”, Carla Langley as a young vampire that is constantly trying to keep herself in check is initially endearing. When Tabby instructs her to cuddle herself, the entire audience’s heart breaks a little. But what playwright Joseph Wilde is great at doing is giving you something and then instantly taking it away; Eve’s “cuddles” and habits become increasingly more aggressive. Similarly Heywood’s Tabby appears to be dealing the best she can with a dire situation, but Wilde continually moves back and forth between different opinions of the characters.

Though the twist at the end is a little predictable, the entire horror of the story suddenly overwhelms you. Leaving the theatre your senses heighten dramatically, and any noise sounds like it might be the scratching of floorboards. Cuddles is only 80 minutes, but it raises a multitude of questions about how you’re supposed to look at the characters and their situations. Blood suckers or not, people can be pretty monstrous when they feel like it.


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Reviewed: 13/05/2015

By Joanna Trainor

6th May – 16th June 2015

Ovalhouse, Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW.


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