Writer: Sharman Macdonald
Director: John Keating
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
Strong female characters, facing life head on, with agency and consequences, are an unfortunately rare occurrence on the stage (and in mainstream arts in general). Sharman Macdonald’s script is a beautiful, female-driven human drama, complicated, deep, and maternal. This production of When I Was A Girl I Used to Scream and Shout, directed by John Keating, doesn’t do justice to the potential power of the story and its characters.
Fiona and Vari’s friendship carried from childhood into adulthood, each taking different personal paths. Much to the dismay of Morag, Fiona’s mother, Fiona is 32-years-old and childless, without a steady male romantic partner in her life. Vari is a mother of three. None of these women are particularly happy with life, and the accuracy of their sexual knowledge is up for debate and often skewed with religion-based misinformation.
Awkward directorial choices are a shame in the production of a script that creates and provides the room for exploring a new idea from a rarely seen point of view. Perhaps a female director would have been the stronger choice, but the issues at hand are not gender- or sex-specific in any way. The set and sound design, by Luke Hegel Cantarella and M. Florian Staab, respectively, transport us to a quiet Scottish beach town with a stony shore and the constant hum of waves crashing lightly into land. Walking on stones creates an unavoidable and very specific sound, and yet there are moments when an actor sets him- or herself on the rocks between scenes, and the clear intention is that everyone act as though the noise is not present. It’s the kind of moment that takes away from the reality of the play, and strikes one as a mistake that should have been fixed in rehearsals.
Aedín Moloney does a fine job bringing the character of Morag to life, but she is too young to play the role. We meet Morag when she’s about sixty years old, and occasionally flash back 17 years to her early forties, but Moloney is in her thirties at most, and doesn’t connect as deeply to the role as a more experienced actor—on stage and in life—might be able to. As founder of Fallen Angel Theatre Company, and the sole credited producer of When I Was A Girl I Used to Scream and Shout, Moloney could better serve the production by casting a more capable and age-appropriate actor.
Macdonald’s script is stronger than this production of it. The characters are simultaneously general and specific, and out of the four, the only male character is the least relevant. It’s as if the playwright set out to tell a story in which the only man is strictly objectified in a way that male characters are rarely to never depicted. Sexuality, religion, motherhood, and the ugly ways these can be wound together over a lifetime spent searching for one’s own identity and worth, underpin the powerful singular story of Fiona’s journey. If only it were better translated from the page to the stage.
Runs until 8 May 2016 | Image: Carol Rosegg