The Wooing of the She-Wolf

Lupine love is in the air for a Belfast theatre group, Maëlle Guéroult reports

Written by Newtownabbey-based poet Jim Johnston, The Wooing of the She-Wolf puts the age-old issue of love into perspective through the tale of troubadour Peire Vidal.

‘I am the Loba. You are a wolf. Is that your idea of romancing me?’

Set in 12th century France, the play tells the story of Vidal, a troubadour seeking the love of Loba of Pennautier, the She-Wolf, the most beautiful woman of the province.

To court her, Vidal makes a pact with the King of the Wolves to become a wolf himself. Dressed as a wolf, he is on his way to meet the Loba when he encounters some shepherds, who see him as a threat to their flocks.

However, Death himself interferes in the story to make love into an experiment.

Performed by Theatre Knights, the drama group of The Knights of the Round Table, and directed by Belgian-born Jo Prinsen, The Wooing of the She-Wolf revisits the French literature of the Middle Ages.

This was the period where the troubadours created a new literary genre: the verses of courtly love.

‘Marriage was based not on dynastic or status grounds, but on the meeting of individuals in love’, explains writer Johnston.

With poetic language, mystery, exotic costumes, dancers and music specially composed for the production, the play recreates the atmosphere of the 12th century.

Vidal, played by Adrian Cooke, meets lots of incidents on his way, making the viewer believe that he dies several times during the course of the play.

Despite its medieval trappings, The Wooing of the She-Wolf appears resolutely modern. Using the subject of courtly love, the play examines the question of relationships between women and men.

The Loba is the receiving subject of many unwelcome ‘wooings’, but in the course of this trajectory she explores what she expects of her ideal soulmate, who could empower her in her life-choices.

In addition Johnston has incorporated contemporary vocabulary and references, with the mixture of medieval settings and modern sensibilities provoking comic situations and a humorous interplay of words and ideas.

The Wooing of the She-Wolf gathers a cast of 18, from Belfast and also European countries: Spain (an actor), France (two actors), Sweden (a dancer), Belgium (the director of the play) and Italy (the person in charge of the set).

Thus, if the aim of the organisation is ‘to bring local talent to public attention, and to provide a showcase for new writing’, the theatre proves that it can bring together different cultures and backgrounds to tell an enchanting tale.

The Wooing of the She-Wolf shows at the University of Ulster York Street campus, Belfast, Thursday 3 May, 8.00pm, and at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast, Saturday 19-20, 8.00pm. £7/£6