A tale of a teenage vampire and consumerism

Teenage vampire Eve has never known what sunlight is. Everything the 13-year-old knows about the world is derived from what her sister Tabby has told her. She has never left her darkened room and has just one living, breathing human to cuddle. She lives in a world crammed with story book characters. In Eve’s world Harry Potter, Bilbo Baggins and the cast of Dante’s Inferno are real; where princes with adjectives instead of names seduce beautiful princesses against the odds. Eve does everything a good little vampire girl should, including drinking her (human) sister’s blood. But one day, Tabby tires of opening her veins and, in a breath, Eve’s whole world changes.

Cuddles is brought to The Studio at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre by Ovalhouse and edgy new theatre company Arch 468 and was created in the wake of the London riots, and is set amongst a rise in food banks, personal debt and austerity measures, taking a look at how society dictactes that what we consume forges our identity.  The play also explores the co-dependent relationship between sisters Tabby and Eve, considering the ways in which parenting choices directly shape the world of tomorrow.

Playwright Joseph Wilde, for whom Cuddles was a debut play when it opened in 2013, said: “For me, what’s most unusual about the play is stylistic approach. There’s not much else on stage that seems to be combining supernatural horror, fairytales, dark comedy, and naturalistic domestic drama. It’s a play about love, sex and control and the only man in it is invisible and silent.” Adding, when considering the contemporary relevance of the work, “At its heart, CUDDLES is about how the need for control necessarily ends in abuse. I think it has a place in the recent debate on self-identity, particularly for women; about how we define ourselves according to the standards of others – the externalised attitudes of our culture – and that the self-image formed from that is hard to eradicate. I think there’s an undeniable power in watching two women, whose identities have formed in response to abuse, trapped alone on stage and trying to negotiate a whole new way of living and seeing themselves.”

Starring Carla Langley as Eve and Rendah Heywood as Tabby, Cuddles is directed by Rebecca Atkinson-Lord, who commented “Joe is one of the most exciting voices writing for theatre right now; he’s not afraid of writing big, morally complex ideas into his plays. That’s what I love about CUDDLES. It’s feminist and anti-capitalist, grappling with important stuff around the power structures that shape us and our society… and as well as all that it’s a brilliant, captivating and emotional roller coaster of a story. He manages to make me believe in the impossible and right now, that feels like a valuable skill to have.”

Cuddles is performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre from Tuesday 19 May – Sunday 23 May 2015.  Tickets £12 / £10.

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Royal Exchange Theatre.  image credit University of Salford Press Office/flickr under creative commons licence.