The premise of Girls Like That is similar to many others. A naked photo of teenage Scarlett goes viral. Shared once, it’s round the whole school in approximately three minutes. Theatre exploring social media, pernicious consequences, blah blah.
However, Evan Placey’s sparky script takes the story you expect and bundles it up with a bunch of observations you don’t: a brief history of feminism and some beautifully smart dialogue. Synergy Theatre Project successfully brings its production to life with a boisterous, brash six person cast -a mix of professional and ex-prisoner actors. The end result is a punchy, 75 minutes of theatre that’s packed with sass.
Brilliantly staged by director Esther Baker, the audience first meet Scarlett, aged 5, on her first day at new school St Helen’s. With a quick scene change, we fast forward to her teenage years, with a brief foray to a swimming pool along the way. Placey’s script brilliantly observes the cloying, clinging sweetness of the ‘friends forever’ trope – and places Scarlet gently on the fringes. When her photo goes viral, this is all the excuse her longstanding friends need to evict her from their close-bosomed group and reseal their ranks.
Her gradual social exclusion is well depicted – but the drama doesn’t end there. A naked photo of the guy everyone fancies subsequently does the rounds – is it an act of revenge? Via a timely genealogy project, Placey sweeps us through a potted history of women’s rights, making some adroit observations about the deep-rooted hypocrisy that continues to underpin attitudes towards gender along the way. April Hughes is particularly brilliant as her historic forbears.
This is a feisty, funny script and Baker has choreographed a tight production that tells enough of the story – and the history – to make the point without wallowing. Even the climactic penultimate scene is scarcely given room to breathe before we fast forward again. Strong visual effects (scrolling news projected onto the stage) and a vigorously un-feminist soundtrack complete the picture.
The only downside here is the film quality. This is a recording of a show performed in 2014 at the Unicorn Theatre. The camera is sitting downstage so when the actors lurk upstage – or talk upstage – the sound and picture quality isn’t great. But this is forgivable because this is a show that should be seen. It toured around London at the time to over 4,300 young people in schools and prisons, with a final outing at the theatre. As of today, 28,000 people have watched it on YouTube.
If you have teenagers in the house, if you have female children (over 13 as a suggested guide – there’s some talk of BJs), if you have a general interest in why equality is tricky or, at the very least, like great theatre, then seek this out. This writer is lucky enough to live in a Scotland now where this sort of behaviour is illegal. But Girls Like That is a spirited reminder that the law can only deal with some of the consequences explored here. Our attitudes (some people’s attitudes) need to go some to take care of the rest.
Girls Like That is available to watch on Youtube here