Whilst bold in its intentions, this production of Evan Placey’s Girls Like That is lively but ultimately fails to move beyond being a superficial overview of the play’s feminist themes.
Addressing issues such as the ‘broken’ sisterhood, the pressures of social media, and the double standards that exist between males and females (to name but a few); this play has a lot to offer. The supposed ‘sisterhood’ consists of a chorus of ‘GIRLS’ and their victim of choice, Scarlett played by Matilda Wickham. The ‘GIRLS’ are a diverse bunch, well-cast, and each actress showcases an impressive skill for timing and wit with much of the play’s humour resulting from their pithy (albeit ignorant) one-liners. Their sense of cohesiveness and vicious solidarity is however never fully convincing, thus making the play’s attempts to highlight the falseness of ‘sisterhood’ less effective. For example, the group dance numbers dotted throughout the performance are finely choreographed but only a few look comfortable with the provocative dance moves; this is perhaps due to nerves from an opening performance, but nonetheless it dampened what could have been a powerful message.
Wickham’s performance is however impressive. Her monologues not only provided relief from the forceful group narratives of the ‘GIRLS’ but were also effectively delivered so as to keep a firm grip on the audience’s attention whenever she was on stage. With her portrayals ranging from a hippy 16-year old demanding her right to have an abortion, to a wartime pilot discussing her male colleagues’ refusal to fly alongside her, Wickham shows both versatility and confidence.
These issues, though historically specific, have an undeniable resonance in modern society and this is the play’s main purpose. Despite criticisms, the audience cannot help but question their own behaviour and although none of the issues raised are likely to bring sudden epiphanies, Girls Like That is a refreshing reminder of how women are controlled (by both men and other women) on a daily basis.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the play is it’s concentration on society’s current obsession with technology and social media. Indeed, the GIRLS’s brutal analysis of photos of others, as well as themselves forces the audience to question the perverted self-confidence that can be gained from finding faults in another’s appearance.
Girls Like That is a fantastic play which highlights many of the issues women face in today’s society. It is a shame however that this production currently lacks the finesse to make the play anything more than a cursory portrayal of the play’s main themes.