‘Girls Like That’ is a powerful attack on the deterioration of female solidarity, and Evan Pacey’s play is reliant on its ensemble cast to convey its heartbreaking and shocking moments with the assertion they deserve. Unfortunately, Feather Theatre Company’s production of this play is plagued by an undercurrent of insecurity, and with dialogue that demands precise delivery and alertness from every member of the cast, this insecurity is almost fatal.
The tone of Pacey’s play is meant to fluctuate from one of nostalgic hope to arresting discomfort, and the way certain scenes are arranged offers its audience a rollercoaster ride of emotional reaction. However, Chennells’ play doesn’t achieve either reaction for most of the play. One glimpse of what the play could have been is offered to the audience in the scene where a girl from another school instigates a fight with Scarlett that becomes a little too violent. However, these glimpses are too few and far between to resurrect the play.
In the play’s best moments, the audience is able to see its potential: the interludes of monologues, each from a woman of a different point in history, is executed beautifully. These performances are strong, perhaps because they rely less on the ensemble – Charlie Culley, Lydia Hyland, and Ella Seigne are excellent and comfortable in their roles. A special mention must be given to Jenny Pavitt, who, despite replacing another cast member at the last minute, shines brilliantly on stage. Another striking performance is Adela Hernandez Derbyshire’s Scarlett. For the majority of the play she is able to use only her expressions, but then finishes off with a poignant monologue that touches on the play’s most important issues; Derbyshire shines in both aspects of the role.
In contrast to these powerful monologues, Pacey’s play is riddled with dialogue that demands its cast to partake in a relay race of one-liners, and this is where the play falters so immensely. For a large majority of the play, the chorus of the nine girls from St. Helen are unable to coordinate, both in their dance routines and their delivery of dialogue. Perhaps a case of first-night jitters, there is an instance where an entire scene is bungled, and the discomfort on the actors’ eyes, and frantic whispering during the transition that comes after, destroy any illusion of a fourth wall. It is disheartening to see such important messaging be lost in the cracks of an unconfident cast. The movement of chairs between scenes could have been better choreographed, as it makes most transitions awkward. Additionally, performances amongst the chorus are inconsistent; some girls make hurried deliveries with monotone voices, and others hold a stronger assertion. If this range of performance was intentional, it didn’t come across that way.
Perhaps with a little more confidence from members of the chorus, both in each other and in their own performances, FTC’s production of ‘Girls Like That’ could have been a cathartic experience. However, the glaring errors and inconsistent quality of performance makes the experience a little too demanding for its audience in all the wrong ways. With the subject matter at hand, and exploring feminist issues such as slut-shaming, suicide and body image, I expected to leave feeling empowered. However, this was not the case, and I do hope the quality of this production only gets better during its run to get closer to an achievement of that impact.