Girls Like That

Girls Like That and selected new writing performed by The Lyceum Youth Theatre,

Traverse Theatre T2 9th March

Evan Placey’s 2013 ensemble play, Girls like That, follows a class of twenty girls non-chronologically from their first day at school to their last. It opens when they are about seventeen as a naked photo of one of the girls, Scarlet, is leaked and circulated on social media. She is vilified, labelled a ‘slut’ and actively excluded from the group by the nineteen girls with whom she grew up. It is a play about the pack mentality of school girls, the cruel way they judge and oppress each other and the toxic way in which social media has come to exacerbate this. The extremity of their cruelty is hyperbolic to the extent of doing young people a disservice. That said, the way in which the girls are sexualised and at the same time so naïve is a disturbing contrast not altogether unrepresentative of today’s school girls.


The Lyceum Youth Theatre directed by Rachel Esdale do a brilliant job of presenting the nuances of school girl social norms as well as the humour and poeticism of the script. There are no specific characters written into the script and in this case Esdale chose it to very much be an ensemble piece. More characterisation would perhaps have contributed to the narrative because, dressed identically in school uniforms, the girls were as visually undistinguishable as the characters they portrayed. Whilst the device of delivering lines in unison is overused in this production, at times, particularly as the girls publicly taunt Scarlet in MacDonald’s, the power that comes from nineteen actresses yelling en masse is truly chilling.


There is a sub narrative in the play, interspersed between the scenes of the school girls are set pieces depicting instances of women overcoming misogynistic social norms since the 1920s. The scenes put Scarlet’s story pointedly into the wider context and history of feminism and highlight how nowadays, as Scarlet later spells out for her class mates, that when women oppress each other, they do little to break down patriarchal expectations.


The blocking was interesting, it is hard to organise so many actors in such a small space as T2, and certain scenes where more successful than others. The use of the front row of seats was clever; it brought the actors closer to the audience and allowed the stage to be free for more intimate scenes, but the device was perhaps overused to the detriment of the narrative. Certain moments would have benefitted from having all the girls on stage, many of the set pieces, especially the 1920s party scene, seemed unnecessarily empty. There was so much energy with all the girls on stage and this was only occasionally harnessed. Equally, the fight scene which was undoubtedly well done would have been more shocking if entirely observed by the girls as suggested in the lines.


Before Girls like That began, two short plays written by members of the Travers Young Writers group James Beagon and Stephen Redwood were performed by the boys of the Lyceum Youth Theatre. Both plays contributed to the dialogue about gender by highlighting the way young men can be just as inhibited by expectations of their gender as their female counterparts. The plays were impressively and sensitively performed by the boys of the Lyceum Youth Theatre. The evening provided the perfect platform for young new writers to have their work seen.


Youth theatre is however about so much more than the performance, it is about developing confidence in oneself and as an actor and about working as a member of team. Whilst Leigh Simpson’s performance stood out in particular, all the girls presented their story with charisma and confidence and commitment, no lines were lost and there was a real sense that the company were supporting each other through the performance. I have taken the liberty to include the link LYT’s website for anyone who’d like to get involved, because youth theatre is such a wonderful thing and this one seems to know what it’s doing.


Reviewer: Laura Hounsell

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