Girls – Soho Theatre, London

Writer: Theresa Ikoko
Director: Elayce Ismail
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman

How far would you be willing to go to survive? Theresa Ikoko’s award-winning play Girls places three friends in an increasingly dangerous situation that challenges them individually to answer the question, and stretches their relationships, sometimes to breaking point.

tell-us-block_editedAs the audience enters, Ruhab (Yvette Boakye), Haleema (Anita-Joy Uwajeh) and Tisana (Abiola Ogunbiyi) are already on stage. Kidnapped from their village, the three dream of rescue and try to keep their spirits up. This is not an echo of one story taken from the papers – these characters represent scores of unknown, unnamed women and girls all over the world. As time goes on, and the chance of rescue becomes more and more remote, each of theGirls has to find a way to exist in their new reality – be that acceptance, escape plans, or fantasy. As Haleema tells the others:“Bad things are supposed to happen here. It’s not terrorism when all of us look the same”.

Funny, poignant, but never overly sentimental, Girls is at its best when all three actresses are on stage. Their clearly defined characters are a joy to watch, each with a distinct personality and set of morals. Boakye and Uwajeh play the extremes of Ruhab and Haleema’s contentious, combative relationship with surprising subtlety, and there is always an undercurrent of affection, even when they are at loggerheads. Always the mediator, Tisana’s innocence and positivity ensure that the older girls always find the middle ground, particularly when it comes to protecting her.

Ogunbiyi’s amazingly expressive face displays the full gamut of emotions, making Tisana’s vast fantasy world almost palpable and her strong moral fibre particularly striking. Beautifully written and thoughtfully portrayed, these Girls will be hard to forget.

Runs until 29October 2016 | Image: Contributed

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