This new play written by Bryan Oliver and staged by Urban Wolves Theatre Company is set in an unspecified time in the future UK where heat, hunger, violence, and plague are the everyday lot of the ‘survivors’.
Zeb (Grace Richardson) who is on stage from the time we enter the tiny space, likes her music, make-up and books. As she thumbs through a copy of Pride and Prejudice she hears an intruder just as the generator fails.
A striking beginning makes you take notice of Scavengers from the off, as Zeb and Finn (Matteo Piombino), who appears terrified and starving, with a tale to tell, bat suspicions and insecurities back and forth.
She has a gun, a container of water, and tinned food. He has sunblock and a passport photo of himself and his girlfriend. It’s as if a tourist has stumbled into a nuclear bunker searching for survival.
The Scavengers of the title are desperate, foraging for food like animals and fighting for territory. It is unclear whether any, or all of the characters in the play fall into this category. All have the ability and means to kill.
When Wikki (Neil Hobbs), Zeb’s boyfriend/protector arrives, he appears dominant from the start, a canny provider with a sad backstory.
It is unclear at first whether the dynamic between him and Zeb is one of love and support or latent abuse (she tells Finn she “lets” Wikki have sex with her, she doesn’t have sex “with” him).
As all three shift allegiances and tension builds in one room lit by battery-powered candles and full of claustrophobic corners, we hear stories of what the climate and plague can do, and how desperate people can be.
Zeb’s motivation for changing her feelings towards Finn isn’t clear, and is fairly problenatic, as straight away he shifts into control mode and potentially more of the same. Better the devil you know?
Scavengers is acted exceptionally well and builds to an explosive conclusion, which is very effective. In Oliver’s script, there are moments which stand out – political points about the rich forcing out “immigrants like you,” a moment where the character we are rooting for suddenly becomes deeply sinister.
Piombino makes Finn’s tales compelling as well as dark, and Hobbs brings out the gallows humour in what could easily be a stock thuggish role.
There’s potential here for a solid eco-thriller, and this small black box venue with its pockets of darkness and chilling sound ripples is the perfect setting for a world imploding on itself.
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