Girls Like That is a play that will trigger different reactions from the audience, depending who is watching. For young people, it will likely be an all-too-familiar shaking of the heads and feelings of regret as, even if it is not something they have experienced personally, they will recognise it as one of the potential risks of being a teenager in the 21st Century. For adults, the main reaction will most likely be shock. It is a brutally real lesson demonstrating what growing up in the modern world can look like.
It is a difference that can be felt when sitting in the audience. Some moments get a laugh out of the older audience members – either because something is quite funny, or perhaps because they do not know how else to react. For pupils and students, they may well wonder why they are laughing, with concern being more the order of the day for them. That is not to say that the adults are reacting incorrectly – it is simply different.
This is a difference that the Morton Players, made up of sixth form students from Guildford High School, are astutely aware of. Girls Like That is a play which, according to its playwright Evan Placey, asks “why are young women using the sexist language and tools men use to oppress women against each other?” It proves to be a complicated and problematic issue, with roots in both the modern world and recent history, handled very professionally by the young cast.
With minimal stage dressing, the Morton Players deliver a performance which is undoubtedly stylised and imaginative (making use of tableaus and flashbacks among other things) but also relatable and grounded. As they all turn against Scarlett, who has a naked picture of herself go viral throughout her school, it is a scenario that many a school pupil would have been warned against by teachers in more recent years. There is a stinging reality to this play.
While Scarlett is the only character named in the play (excluding a boy called Russell, who has a small but significant role), the ensemble of other girls each have their own distinct identities and personalities. In spite of this established difference, they all scorn individuality – wearing their uniforms as a way of proving their beliefs. This collective group identity is not in itself a bad thing; however, combined with a never-ending stream of tweeting and posting, it proves to be a violent exercise in ostracising Scarlett and turning her into a social pariah. The fact that the girls all come together as a group to do this in spite of having their own developed characters is testimony both to the in-depth characterisation process evident in this production as well as the effects of pack mentality that Placey was writing about.
Girls Like That is, as already suggested, quite funny at times. In this case, however, the humour covers up some stark truths about the issue being investigated. One of the girls asking if Canada was part of the USA is a reminder that these are still young girls who do not know everything (while they may not care to admit it). When a moment like this happens, it serves to add shock value to those moments in the play that really are not funny at all. The cast do well to make these moments of humour and seriousness or tragedy distinct from one another.
This is a play with serious lessons about the modern world at its heart, and what it is like to grow up in a world of clicking and swiping and camera flashes. All the girls on stage transcend their age to deliver a reality check to whoever has the privilege of watching Placey’s work brought to life like this.
Girls Like That
C Venues – C South (Venue 58)
Until 10th August
Photo credit: The Morton Players