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WHITE FANG: Park 90 London

Published by: Elaine Pinkus on 15th Dec 2017 | View all blogs by Elaine Pinkus

White Fang, written and directed by Jethro Compton, inspired by the Jack London novel.

Mariska Ariya and Danny Mahoney in White Fang at Park Theatre. Photo by Jethro Compton 537_preview.jpeg

Mariska Ariya and Danny Mahoney: Photograph Jethro Compton

Jethro Compton emphasised that his is not an adaptation of Jack London’s White Fang but more a play inspired by that novel. It is important to take note of that for if you were to buy tickets in the hope of seeing that delicious novel played out on stage, you would be taken aback. Here Compton has taken the premise of White Fang and offers a new narrative which takes the struggle of the half wolf half dog White Fang and turns it into a human struggle for identity of a young first nation girl, Lyzbet, who in 1898 Canada is caught between two worlds: that of good and bad, of kindness and evil.   

There are several themes and sub plots running through this narrative: hunter/prey, identity/isolation, good and evil, indigenous displacement, integrity and truth. Lyzbet Scott (Mariska Ariya)and White Fang become one spirit in their journey of discovery, to find who they are and where they truly belong. Rescued as baby/pup, found beside the bodies of their dead parent(s), each is caught between two worlds: that of their indigenous heritage and that of the 'civilised' white man. At their core, they answer to the call of their old world but are trapped in the world of rules and mores. Ultimately it is evident where Lizbet believes she belongs, although her angst can become somewhat repetitive and sermonising in places. In their idealistic innocence and desire, each is taken advantage of by the greed of the white man, who has exploited them at every turn. Her beloved adoptive ‘grandfather’ Weeden Scott,( Robert G Slade) has deceived her, Beauty Smith (Paul Albertson) has lied and cheated in his greed for personal wealth. These strings of betrayal and deceit can serve only to fuel her hunger for her true heritage and the honest rawness of nature itself. It is only the character of Curly (Bebe Sanders) who is truly open with Lizbet, perhaps because she is a little in love with this feisty young warrior.

Danny Mahoney and Bebe Sanders in White Fang at Park Theatre. Photo by Jethro Compton 337_preview.jpeg

Danny Mahoney and Bebe Sanders: Photograph Jethro Compton

The puppetry (directed by James Silson) is inspired. White Fang, shown in three stages of his life/death, is convincing at each point. It is he that evokes the highest level of emotion in his unconditional trust of Lyzbet, taking whatever befalls him as a consequence. Words are not necessary; his physicality (snarlingly realistic) tells all. Just as we took to our hearts Joey in War Horse, we absorb this magnificent creature who is majestic like the landscape and who understands the basic rule of nature, to survive and defend his ‘kin’. 

The clever staging achieves the harshness of the Northlands (Yukon territories) landscape. Separated only by a white curtain, there is the external solitude and isolation of the freezing elements and the internal starkness of the log cabin. Each is convincing. With the relentless sound of the howling wind (wolfish in its manner) and the crunchy snow, many of the audience reached for their scarves and jackets to ward off the cold. Park 90 is a small studio space, but the staging was entirely effective with two adjacent seating areas around the small stage. As such, the intimacy and inclusion ensured full theatrical effect.

The cast performed their indiviual roles with conviction and were successfully collaborative as a whole. It would be wrong to single out any as all deserve a mention here: Mariska Ariya, Robert G Slade, Bebe Sanders, Paull albertson, Jonathan Mathews and Danny Mahoney.

Paul Albertson, Danny Mahoney and Robert G Slade (l-r) in White Fang at Park Theatre. Photo by Jethro Compton 633_preview.jpeg

Paul Albertson, Danny Mahoney and Robert G Slade: photograph Jethro Compton

With his love of the western and his cinematic experience (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Park Theatre), Compton has created a quasi cinematic theatrical experience at Park 90 featuring inspired puppetry (Creator: Eric Davis and puppetry Director James Silson), original plus newly created score, (Jonny Simms Gavin Whitworth and Michael Raabe) and effective creatives of sound, lighting and staging.

Production: 2 hours including a 20 minute interval. 

Venue: PARK90, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP

Dates: 13 December 2017 – 13 January 2018

Age guidance: 12 +

Performances: Tue – Sat Evenings 7.45pm, Thu & Sat Matinees 3.15pm

 

Prices: Previews £14.50, Standard £18, Concessions £16.50, Child (under 16) £13, Young Patrons £10 (13-20 Dec), Groups: buy 10 tickets get the 11th free

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