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'The Wild Sighs': Hilarious and Important

Have you ever wondered what happens when a clueless hiker accidentally stumbles upon a rural dispute centred around a missing sheep? I certainly haven’t, at least before seeing ‘The Wild Sighs’. The third play of the semester by the Open Theatre Society brought just the right dose of brilliant social commentary combined with hilarious comedy that had the entire audience rolling with laughter.

 

On the 1st of December 2023, I had the pleasure of seeing ‘The Wild Sighs’ at the Alec Clegg Studio in Stage@Leeds. Written by Dillon Dowson, and co-directed by Dillon Dowson and Thom Zeff, the show ran from the 30th of November to the 2nd of December and blew its attendees away with its sharp comedic wit and the ability to highlight social issues in a funny, but very poignant way. Despite the small cast consisting of three main and a few side characters, the actors have managed to make the story incredibly unique and memorable with their lively portrayals. Best of all, most characters were written as male but cast as gender non-specific, which gave yet another layer to the comedy and the acting brilliance.

 

The scene is set with the hiker, played by Ginny Davis, a young man feeling lost in every aspect of his mundane city life, who escapes into nature to “find himself”. However, he unknowingly puts up his tent on a farm and quickly meets the farmer, played by Sara Roche, when he accidentally triggers a fence alarm. The farmer appears to be erratic and unstable, going from yelling at the hiker to begging him for forgiveness for his angry outbursts. He is heartbroken over the loss of his prized sheep Janine, portrayed by Stacey Siqi Fang, who had been missing ever since she won the Sheep of the Year Competition. The farmer claims Janine was the only good thing in his life after his (granted, despised) wife passed away and he had to sell most of his land and farm animals. The hiker also meets an old man, portrayed by Samantha Cass, characterised by his hippie looks and anarchic ideas, who has seemingly been hiking the region for a very long time and is old friends with the farmer. He takes on sort of a mentor role in the hiker’s journey. Over the course of two days, the hiker learns more and more about the missing sheep scandal and the life of the people involved, including the arrogant Farmer King, played by Callum Smith, a rival farmer, played by Nat Skoczenski, and the owner of a sheep who lost the competition, played by Erin Cooke. But a mystery remains: who took Janine and what was their motive?


Photo credits: Millie Stephens (Instagram: @milliessphotos)

 

The play incorporates important social commentary centring around farmer mistreatment, animal cruelty, deforestation, and even pyramid schemes through delightful comedy elements. It might sound like a weird combination, but it definitely worked in this production and had the audience invested from the get-go. The plot was creative and unexpected and, judging by the audience's reactions, a roaring success. Due to the size of the stage, the scenography was pretty minimalistic and understated, with a small fence and a tent being the main elements along with some fake vegetation for decoration, but it still had the desired effect. In my opinion, the fact that everything was happening on such a small patch of land added to the brilliance.

 

‘The Wild Sighs’ was the third out of four plays the Open Theatre Society put on this semester, and they just wrapped up the performances of their fourth production titled ‘Love, Plantain, and the Death of the Matriarch’. You can find the society on Instagram as @opentheatresoc and keep up with their socials for upcoming announcements of the Semester Two shows and events that they’re currently working hard on!

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