Writer: Sarah Richardson
Director: Ciara Elizabeth Smyth
Sex is pretty great. Sometimes. Well, occasionally. Alright, it’s fine. And yet, for the most talked, sung, joked, and written about the subject, sex is still a surprising taboo for some. Particularly, with the intent of marginalising women and concentrating their sexual exploration and autonomy to as restrictive a means as possible. Making its in-person Festival Fringe debut,GirlPlayby Sarah Richardson evolves from its previous digital audio production into a fledged production which undresses the gatekeeping of masturbation, bodily autonomy, grief, and the high and embarrassing lows of sex.
In transitioning to the stage, Richardson’s text enables audiences to garner a closer look at the facial expression and the difficulties in facing harsh realities and trauma. Ciara Elizabeth Smyth’s direction has a softer, comedic approach at first to align with the more approachable nature of the script’s initial third. But gradually, the physicality advances with the complexity of the script, and the performances from Martha Dunlea, Laura Brady and Richardson push the production to new heights.
The trio embody the inner mind of Lucy, a young woman experiencing things for the first time – the disappointments, the joys, and frustrations of dating and sex. Much of their interaction is conducted in the round, almost lyrical in moments, with a deft hand of spoken word expression to form a connection with the audience. Dunlea has a fine grasp of the script’s melodramatic humour and expression, with Richardson and Brady channelling a visceral authenticity in their performances.
In moving from a previous medium to the stage, spacing has surface issues – nothing detracting overall, but in moments the movement pieces feel otherwise unnecessary, serving to fill the voids of space than add much.
It’s striking to see a liberated form of expression evolve so naturally over a short course of time – from the reluctances and misunderstandings of their bodies to the full fruition of pleasure appreciation and self-confidence without the reliance on shortcuts or hyped-up montages. Richardson’s text takes an authentic journey through the naivety of youth, highlighting the substantial lack of conversation we have with young women, and indeed young men, about bodily autonomy, pleasure, and the more difficult conversations surrounding complications with pregnancy.
For what minimal lighting there is, Amy Daniel’s design re-captures some of what made the digital production mustered in its evocative language. The deep crimsons offer an intensity, one which Jenny O’Malley’s sound design works to intensify. Much of the audio design feels internalised, an excellent decision given the weight insecurity and inner thoughts have throughoutGirlPlay
In transitioning from digital audio drama to a fledgling in-person piece,GirlPlaystill pertains to its powerful and emotive script – benefitting from the intense intimacy of three marvellous performances. Where it may stumble with filling the space of the stage, it succeeds in powering through and championing a frankness of emotional trauma, sex, and the female body in a way which is accessible, forthcoming, and at times witty with humour. And while the piece has an inherent stance of theatre for women, by women,GirlPlayis for all audiences – and should be encouraged at any opportunity to grow and widen its reach.
Runs until 27 August 2022