Thursday, April 26, 2018


★★★★ “It’s viciously funny; Maybe change starts with plays like this.” – The Guardian

"A naked photo of Scarlett goes viral. Rumours spread across smartphones like wildfire and her reputation becomes toxic, threatening to shatter the clique of girls she has grown up with. But how long can Scarlett remain silent? And why isn’t it the same for boys? Girls Like That is an explosive new play that explores the evolution of feminist consciousness and modern female friendships in the wake of advancing technology."


Tarragon Theatre is no stranger to fine examples of ensemble work. The last show, Bunny, gave audiences a beautiful and intense example of a cast and crew working together to create a fully integrated vision of one woman’s relationship with a world that profoundly misunderstands and prejudges women’s sexuality. But nothing could prepare spectators for the ways in which an group of seven young women have worked together to bring to the stage a breakneck ensemble performance that exemplifies impeccable timing and a kind of dance music video effect throughout, breaking the conversation into a multivalent form of spoken word dialogue/monologic theatre that pushes the boundaries of playwriting toward a glorious spectacle of sight and sound.

Perhaps vaguely reminiscent of Caryl Churchill’sTop Girls, Evan Placey’s script replaces more naturalistic dialogue with seamless catcalls, cacophonies of lovelorn girlhood, and poignant monologues from specific 20th century historic periods that bring to the final moments a profound sense of how history forms and affects feminine gender and sexuality in disturbing and empowering ways. Under the direction of Esther Jun the cast is placed strategically and rigorously throughout Shannon Lea Doyle’s simple and effectively elegant steel grey institutional set that sends the action - and the uniformed ‘girls’ (among other historical costumes beautifully designed by Ming Wong) - into high relief as they act out formative moments in their education as the young women of St. Helens.
Placey’s lengthy narrative (one hour forty five minutes with no intermission) suffers slightly at times from a touch too much cacophony of frequently indistinguishable commentary, and could easily be shortened by 15 to 20 minutes without losing any of the essential information. Nevertheless, one is able to gain a striking, if not somewhat surface sense of each character as they move through troubling youthful times that both separates and unites them within their greatest adolescent struggles. Each performer displays an amazing sense of diverse characterization as they work together to portray that supremely difficult theatrical task - to show a sense of the individual and the group within a single moment.
The use of lip sync, both musical and spoken, is ingenious as it divides and illuminates the physical and emotional relationships between the absent males and the women they manipulate with their youth, beauty, and utter disregard for complex compassion. At one point a character exclaims, regarding male manipulative tendencies, that the young women are becoming more and more like the young men who have taken part in their distress and subsequent malevolent behaviour patterns. And yet, the playwright, in a perhaps somewhat convoluted manned, suggests that there may always be a way out - or - at the very least, a way to view these gender constructions and consider ways to re-imagine them in a more positive manner. 
Basically, a provocative photo of one of the young women, distributed online by dubious sources, creates a tension that rambles in complex ways throughout the consciousness of this collective group of young female students. A lone hunky young man who is never seen, but described in evocative detail, is joined by his invisible male cohorts within a misogynist cultural scheme that pits (6) girls against (1) girl, and effectively teases the audience with potential tragedy and mayhem. And yet, ultimately, GIRLS LIKE THAT becomes, by the end, an uplifting and bittersweet open ending in a time when tragic misogynist consciousness continues to wreak havoc.


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