She Wolf

Maggie McKenzie is a self-professed mad woman who passes a day addressing her sacred audience – a caged pack of wolves. Drinking irn bru in a zoo from the comfort of a bench coupled with a rubbish bin, it is clear Maggie has hit a crisis point. Over the next hour, she tells her tale to these vicious kindred spirits in the hope of garnering an understanding that her fellow humans appear incapable of offering. Drawing on the dog-eats-dog advice offered by her idolised Aunt Nina, she considers the pitfalls of capitalism both through the lens of love and luxury, exposing the way in which the world is determined by structural inequalities and various forms of injustice.

Challenges the presuppositions of capitalist individualism

I was initially drawn to this one-woman show by the shocking poster and compelling concept. Having swallowed an assortment of meritocratic truths as an antidote to her materially impoverished upbringing, Mags ascends toward the top, seduced by corporate gifts and the promise of both glamour and stability. Despite being strong, efficient, and driven, Mags comes to realise that her Auntie was right: the world just wasn’t made for people like her – working class women. Written and performed by Isla Cowan, this monologue challenges the presuppositions of capitalist individualism not only by narrative, but also through physical transformation as evinced by mental breakdown and re-embodiment in the form of the She Wolf.

Even so, the meaning of ‘wolf’ at times felt reductive. Maggie longs for her own ‘pack’ – some sort of a community based on sharing and caring – but this anti-capitalist alternative felt a little shoehorned, as contrasted to the wolf-like ferocity that the young and previously docile woman awakened in herself. In effect, the script remained bound by the very eat-or-be-eaten ethic it sought to expose, eliding the nurturing and communal aspects of wolf-nature in favour of an age-old critique of capitalist consumerism.

Amidst this thematic sterility, Cowan’s delivery felt tiring at times, exhibiting a derision toward the world and sense of self-pity that became repetitive. I also felt that a plethora of grotesque possibilities were left untapped. Although I enjoyed the physicality of She Wolf as her transformation progressed, the performance as a whole was too static. Despite falling prey to a series of oversimplified tropes interwoven with awkward self-aggrandisements that reinforced the individualistic ethic, this is a gory and strangely enjoyable story which should be developed.

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Reviews by William Leckie

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★★★
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Performances

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The Blurb

Winner of the 2022 Assembly ART Award and the Alpine Fellowship Theatre Prize. A fierce, ferocious monologue about getting f*cked over and fighting your way back. Spoken by a woman hiding out at the zoo, She Wolf tears open questions of gender and class in a capitalist world. What does it take to succeed when only the fittest survive? As Maggie's life falls apart, becoming animal is only human. 'A powerhouse on stage, Cowan's conviction in her performance is as strong as her writing' (TheReviewsHub.com).

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