Writer: Evan Placey
Director: Rachael Esdale
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
One day we won’t need productions that discuss gender inequality, however, for the time being, we have playwrights such as Evan Placey to help navigate the new generation’s struggles with gender inequality and social damage through digital devices. This adaptation of his 2013 piece Girls Like That sees the Lyceum Youth Team and Traverse Theatre come together to highlight the issues of body shaming and social media after Scarlett’s naked photos go viral.
As a man in his 20s, this review comes from a divergent angle, yet the topic and chosen issues are illustrated precisely and moot this point. In raising one’s voice, regardless of age or gender, it communicates the feeling of high school girls and women – exhaustion. Exhausted with the multitude of opinions, disguises and masks forced upon them, exhausted with differing ideas of beauty, eroticism and blame, simply exhausted with fear, your body and societal expectations.
Guilt plays a tremendous part in this production. Not infamous Catholic guilt but true, honest guilt from teenagers whose; “mothers should have taught them better“. It’s simple lines such as this that conceal an almost intolerable level of sophisticated writing. Very rarely does director Rachael Esdale need to hammer in the point of feminism. Instead, these lines demonstrate all too often heard excuses used to sweep aside behaviour. Girls Like That knows its audience is intelligent enough to grasp the concepts surrounding identity, feminism and coming of age. It simply seems to want to remind us that regardless of advancements in equal rights, some things have never really changed. That boys will be boys, but girls will somehow be whores and yet also frigid.
Ultimately, society has merely changed its approach to this mental torture. As we are guided back to historical moments of characters being objectified and others humiliated, we realise they all interlink. A grander narrative emerges with multiple cast members doubling roles. As 21st Century high schoolers and roaring twenties swimsuit parties may contrast, the putdowns of men are repetitious, just in differing guises. The misogynistic CEO of the 80s is no different to the school hunk whose nude photo is “legendary”. While Scarlett’s snap is sluttish, the CEO’s assistants skirt flirtatious.
The one thing we detest more than anything is a bright white screen glaring in the theatre auditorium. Tonight, however, everything about this show is down to those small electronic weapons we conceal. The power to communicate, converse, but also crush. Candle-lit vigils are illuminated by the very camera phones which poisoned Scarlett’s life. Constant selfies are captured as the girls mask their insecurities and love-hate relationships with themselves and each other. It also makes for fantastic visual gags amid the already (unexpected) solid humour.
The cast of Girls Like That should be proud. Several members have a broad emotional range and refined annunciation many ‘professionals’ could stand to develop. A clever move is to keep our Scarlett silent throughout most of the production. Another clear insight to the lacking believability or even care for the victim. Sadly, though, while our performer has appropriate facial reactions, her delivery of Scarlett’s only real active moment leaves a lot to be desired after such build-up.
The Traverse and LYT are known for opening the door for emerging talent, tonight’s production highlights the necessity for this and is commendable for still drawing attention to these issues. It presents Edinburgh with emerging stars, a poignant script and allows laughter at the more tragic subjects.
Runs until 11 March 2017 | Image: James Taylor Wilson