13 June 2024

This local theatre production tackles an impossible moral dilemma

| Dione David
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Still from Wolf Lullaby

Wollongong Workshop Theatre is gearing up to present Wolf Lullaby. Photo: McKenzee Scrine.

A Wollongong theatre company will this week perform an Australian play that will compel audiences to tackle tough moral questions and interrogate the echo chambers we live in.

Wollongong Workshop Theatre’s production of Hilary Bell’s Wolf Lullaby opens this week, promising to spark ethical debate so ruinously complex that audiences may never find the “right” answer.

In a small regional town, a shocking crime rocks the community: the murder of a young child. When the unsettling truth emerges that the prime suspect is another child, the question arises – protect, or condemn?

“What do we do when the perpetrator of a horrific crime is a child? How can justice be found when there is a looming gulf between culpability and consciousness?” director Sally Evans says.

“Who do we blame? The perpetrators, who are children? Their parents? Culpability, when we’re talking of young children is complex and there’s little precedent. How do we work out and govern what’s lawfully right as opposed to what our values tell us is morally ethical?

“We choose our stance – there is right and there is wrong, and we want in on the right side, whatever we decide that may be. But what are we to do if there is no simple right or wrong – when the answer is ‘I don’t know’?”

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Though based on a horrific true event in the UK in the early 90s, Sally says the themes are more relevant and the conversations more critical in today’s age of confirmation bias, than when first raised.

“In the age of social media, it’s difficult not to live in echo chambers. Algorithms decide the content with which we engage. Our social circles tend to reflect our values, limiting diverse opinions and ideas,” she says.

“I love that this play doesn’t lean into the dark subject matter. It could easily be sensationalist but instead is heartfelt. It doesn’t spend time dwelling on the crime but focuses on the people in the nucleus of the moment as they navigate it in a time before the dawn of the internet and the 24-hour news cycle when nobody gave them an opinion to agree or disagree with.

“Back then there was time for careful, nuanced debate and people had to figure out for themselves where they landed in the conversation.”

While the spectrum of the debate bubbles throughout the entirety of the play, Wolf Lullaby doesn’t seek to answer the complex questions it raises for its audiences.

Instead, a talented cast of four presents real, relatable characters going through an unimaginably difficult experience.

“When members of the cast were trying to work out how a character felt in a certain scene, we were often reminded that two things can be true at the same time. Someone can be a victim and a perpetrator at the same time. That’s the tension we’re sitting in throughout this play,” Sally says.

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“There’s a thing that happens in the course of the play. One of the parents makes a choice. The first time I read that part of the script I thought it was abhorrent. But if you separated emotions from practical components, that decision made a huge amount of sense. However, it’s an example of the privilege we sometimes have of condemning someone because it’s not us making that choice.”

Fans of true crime or TV dramas like Broadchurch will be captivated by this haunting story, and chew on the questions it raises long after the curtain falls.

Wolf Lullaby runs at the Wollongong Workshop Theatre from Friday 14 to Saturday 29 June, with performances at 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 pm on Sundays. Tickets cost $30 or $25 for concession – book here.

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Thanks Region Illawarra! We can’t wait to share this work with the Illawarra community. It’s a great Australian drama, and as a one-act show is gripping from start to finish.

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