The Morton Players return to the Fringe with their adaption of Evan Placey’s Girls Like That, a play looking at the dangers of cyber bullying and how a group of girls ostracise one of their friends after a naked picture of her is shared online. The Student sat down with cast members Briony Randell, Maddy Black, Bel Cramer, Kitty Daniels and Beatrice Steele to discuss the impact of the play and the process of bringing it to the Fringe.
How were you all introduced to the play?
We had a talk with [our teacher] Miss Fenton… she brought this play to us, and we liked it because it had no characters. If you look at the script we have to divide the lines up ourselves and come up with a character persona.
It’s quite edgy, which made us think that it would be different to other plays [that are] set in a school. I feel we can come into the characters a lot easier and more effectively. Coming from a girls’ school as well we felt that it was very important that we help to promote female issues. At the moment there are a lot of plays that do that, so it was really important that we have a play that relates to us.
What did you first think of the script when you first read it?
We definitely thought it was funny when we first read through it. Because a lot of the lines can be so differently interpreted, because there are no clear-cut characters, for us the script had a lot more meaning once we had created the characters.
Speaking your lines out loud… there are lots of different ways you can do it, so they have a lot more meaning once we had done that. Throughout rehearsal, the more we went through it, the more we noticed, and the more things that we had not noticed the first time we read through it appeared. You pick up on different things each time, which is a good thing.
Do you think there is room for the play to be interpreted differently depending on who is watching?
Everyone looks at it in the context of their own life and what they have experienced. It is interesting how this play has really divided our cast, because some of us have experienced instances [of cyberbullying] like this, and some of us haven’t. I think it can also be a play that is differently interpreted by a lot of people, and I have seen this kind of thing happening with boys as well. So I think that it can be.
I think it depends on your age. Like, say, an older person. They are more likely to find it shocking. A younger person identifies with it a lot more. From talking to our parents as well, they do not have the experience of growing up in an age of social media. It’s kind of something new and something that they do not quite know. Whereas for young people they can relate to it and understand it. So, in both senses it is good, but there are different perspectives.
I think it is accessible to all ages, because for older generations it’s more informative. Introducing them to what often can happen. It is a worst-case scenario, but for the younger generation it is more like a reminder of what should not happen.
A teacher came to watch us perform it in school, and he said that we should perform it to the entire school, because we would not just be giving a lesson. It is drama. It is more engaging. It [depicts] people our age as well, so we can relate to our own peers.
When was the first time you performed the play?
At school two months ago. We performed it twice at school and then we had a month’s break before we came back.
We only had four weeks to put the play together because of exams. It was about 17 hours a week. It was really intense, which was good because once we had the month’s break, it was so ingrained [in our minds] that we didn’t really have to panic when we came back. We came back to it a couple of days before we left [for the Fringe].
Why did you decide to take the show to the Fringe?
That was always the idea behind it, because our school does take a few plays up to the Fringe. It was our time. [Laughs] It was our time to shine! This one was just perfect for the cast. It was a big cast and ensemble.
I have heard that it is really different to other plays at the Fringe. Which is perhaps [because] they are more serious or they are more improvised. This is… edgy but also educational. It was also written quite recently, in 2013. A lot of the plays here are quite fresh and relevant and that is quite an important aspect of the Fringe. You have other plays out, like [about] Trump, which are really modern and recent. That is kind of why this was such a good thing.
Although, even if you have seen the play before, what is interesting about this one is that every time you see it by a different company, it will be a different play. It is such a template to start with it is down to the company to decide how they want to put it on and what messages they want to promote.
That was another thing which was quite cool in the rehearsal process. We would stop, and be like ‘how are we going to do this?’ We would have a sort of discussion about it and sometimes it would be quite a big debate. Everyone has their own ideas about how to portray it, how they see it and how they interpret the play. Which makes it a really fun thing to do.
It is also nice because everyone has an input in how they want the play to go and how they want the messages to be conveyed. So, we made it our own. And that is important for us.
It did feel like, watching it, that it was a very collaborative process. With the possible exception of Scarlett, there was not really an identifiable main character. Was that a new experience compared to other plays that you have done?
It was, really. I think it is far more interesting to – apart from Scarlett – not have a main character. It becomes more of an ensemble thing, and it is easier for it to be a collective idea rather than ‘oh we need to promote this one character.’
[The play is] very much about pack mentality. It is about being cruel collectively rather than assessing individuals, which I think makes it a lot more powerful and effective. The audience can actually see that it is not just one person, but it is when everyone gets together.
The only danger in not having fully fleshed-out female characters is that you can fall into the trap of generalisation among women in general. I think we avoided that in that we focused much more on pack mentality rather than women [specifically]. This problem can exist in any sphere which has technology.
Have you learned more yourselves about what technology is capable of and people with technology are capable of?
We learned that there is a law, actually, that you cannot distribute a naked photo of yourself [if you are under eighteen years old]. None of us knew that. It’s illegal, and you will get put on the sex offender’s register. That was a really eye-opening thing. We also learned about this girl in Canada who is mentioned in the play who got her naked photo sent around the internet by a sexual predator. He would just keep sending it to people at her school, and she would get relentlessly bullied. We did learn a lot about cyberbullying based on that.
We also learned the capability of what a group can do. It is so harsh and, individually, I don’t think any of them would do that. It is scary how even some nice girls… there were characters in the play who were nicer, and we see how even they are, when put in a group setting, can still join in.
What was really eye-opening for me was that we, as I said before, have grown up with this. Because we have kind of grown up in this environment, we are more aware of how dangerous it can be. It has become the norm. What was interesting was seeing my parents’ reactions, and realising how little they were aware that stuff like this happens and how for us it is generally accepted [that it will]. But parents, because they have not experienced this at our age, have no idea.
Another really interesting thing that this play shows quite well is how women are encouraged much more than men to be in groups, and to have close friendships. All these girls are friends. Boys do not get that told to them as often. They are told that they can be more independent. That is why sometimes you can get this pressure cooker, where you have been forced to be together since you were really young and everyone is telling you ‘oh you will be friends for life’ and it can end up very badly.
Do you think this play has changed how you will look back on your school years?
It makes me feel quite lucky that this has not happened to me. I think we are lucky that we do not have girls like the ones in the play who are so absorbed by this pack mentality that they find it easy to absorb themselves into, and that makes it so easy for them to separate Scarlett from the group.
What is funny about this play is that all the girls are caricatures. They are an amalgamation of many different reactions from a lot of different girls. [However,] I have started to notice moments from the play happening in real life.
Do you think that this is a funny play?
Yes… but it is also uncomfortable at the same time. Which is what makes it so effective. All these girls are laughing at Scarlett and laughing about how slutty she is or whatever, and they think it is really funny and there are moments where they say really funny things. However, if you step back and look at the big picture it is not a funny situation.
It is darkly funny. Black comedy. You feel guilty and uncomfortable about why you are laughing as an audience member.
In three words, how would you NOT describe your show?
Comfortable, boring, clichéd.
Easy to watch.
Outdated, flat, boring.
Not too preachy.
Slow, not punchy.
Image: The Morton Players