Who knew that a Dusty Springfield favourite could provide such an effective description of man’s descent into unspeakable evil? Ewan Downie and Jonathan Peck from Company of Wolves apparently, as they croon their way through
A Brief History of Evil finds most success when playing up the darkly comic aspects of our doomed fight to try and become better people.
Downie and Peck, blending threat and humour in their gravedigger-cum-showman get-ups, present themselves enigmatically to the audience through a story, as they recount what it’s like performing a morally dubious job that not many others would dare undertake. Their considerable comic ability and chemistry provide an entertaining yet inconsistent opening, given the show then moves to tackle its central concern – how the lies we tell ourselves breed evil – largely through repetitive and dualistic movement. Both performers offer committed performances, A Brief History of Evil finding most success (and accessibility) when playing up the darkly comic aspects of our doomed fight to try and become better people.
It is when the piece moves into more heightened emotional territory that it encounters problems. As self-deception turns into self-destruction towards the conclusion, the hypnotic quality which makes the work so entrancing slips away as the performers begin to screech, jerk and clamber animalistically through the audience. It feels far too manic and over the top in the context of what has just preceded, ultimately removing the viewer from the experience at the exact time they need to be most engaged. The focus shifts from the idea of dual identity which forms the heart of the piece, and the ending therefore feels abrupt, not like the inevitable culmination and resolution of what has come before.
Company of Wolves have an interesting work on their hands, full of potential. Unfortunately, just as Dusty foretold, it spirals towards its end.