She Wolf review – one-woman show unleashes beast within

·2 min read

Fight, flight or freeze. Those are our responses to threat. We do not need to think about them. Our animal instinct kicks in long before rational thought. We simply act. Beneath the high-status jobs, the designer clothes and the fancy cars, our animal selves remain. We have become domesticated, but only at the expense of repressing our ancient urges. Our social selves, polite and forgiving, are just a sheen to help us get along.

But what if it weren’t that way? In this lucid solo show, written and performed by Isla Cowan, Maggie is a young professional, working for a consultancy firm, harbouring ambitions to claw her way to the top. Having embraced the competitive values of the corporate world, she finds herself confounded by a system more voracious than even she is prepared for. Cornered into a fury of frustration – angered by class, by privilege, by male dominance – she is no longer willing to restrain her inner she-wolf.

To underline the point, she meets us at the wolf enclosure in Edinburgh Zoo and, in Joanna Bowman’s sharply choreographed production, casts us as the unloved creatures. Except she is the one under observation. As closing time draws near, we sense blood on her lips as she describes the events that have brought her here; the callous boyfriend, the workplace nepotism, the sense of never being good enough in a society designed to exclude her.

If the degree of offence does not seem severe enough to justify her animal anger, Cowan tunes in to the genuine grievances of the disempowered. In her impassioned performance, she captures the urgency of a generation of young women eager to rip the system apart, one strip of flesh at a time.