EFR - Reviews of I'm Not Like Other Girls

I'm Not Like Other Girls

Tue 5th – Sat 9th August 2014

reviews

Rob Collins

at 10:40 on 8th Aug 2014

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I’m Not Like Other Girls is undoubtedly one of the gems of the festival, intriguing and mesmerizing from the off. The set is simple, consisting of a single chair and a suitcase, and yet there is an undeniable sense of chaos, with clothes littering the floor. This feeling is confirmed by Sillett’s understated arrival on stage, appearing with no warning and little fuss, going straight into the extended monologue that comprises the show.

From the start it is frantic, yet never rushed, as we are plunged into her world and the bright lighting that illuminates both Sillett and the audience further heightens the sense that, more than an audience, we are her confidants. Over the next 50 minutes, Sillett takes us on a chronological journey through her life story, from early childhood memories of school and university up until her feminist revelation, covering in particular her experience of a sexual assault that sparked her interest in feminism.

It is a testament to Sillett’s writing and performance that the perfect tone is struck throughout and whilst there is a huge amount of detail in the story, it never once drags. The opening section covering her childhood is both touching and brutally honest. Sillett is frank about both her perceived flaws of body and image, (without ever sounding self-pitying), and more serious incidents of bullying other girls to advance herself in the eyes of the boys she likes. This reluctance to set her self up as any sort of moral arbiter is key for the second half as it allows her to make her points about feminism without ever sounding preachy or self interested.

It has to be said that Sillett’s performance itself is nothing short of extraordinary. She exudes both a resilient confidence and a clear vulnerability, comfortable in front of her audience yet never overly so, and the honesty with which she tells her story is endearing and extremely moving.

Rarely have I seen a piece of theatre that so successfully combines a political agenda with such evocative personal testament and the fact that this was all condensed into fifty minutes is a feat in itself. Sillett has created an exceptional show here and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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Sarah Gilbert

at 10:46 on 8th Aug 2014

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In a society masquerading as liberal and equal, here in terms of gender and body image, one often feels the intense need to define and redefine the self. Immerse’s one-person – not one-woman, not one-man – spoken word piece carries us through a first person account of an individual struggling to achieve a conception of self, mind and body in surroundings that continually seem to undermine her.

The voice of the piece moves from a position of naive vulnerability, forced to define herself by one of two genders and their associations, into one that accepts that individuals may only be self-aware in terms of themselves. Told from a position of hindsight, the women directly addresses us, the audience, from her bedroom. Ridden by misogyny and determined to disassociate herself from her sex, Susie grew up saying things like “I’m not like the others”, “I don’t understand women”, but by the end of the piece, no closer to a solid understanding, accepts the arbitrary nature of categorizing people who are, ultimately, individual.

And this is what I found most striking about the performance. Even from the position of her so-called ‘realisation’ as an apparently self-aware adult, Susie remains inevitably trapped within this struggle, feeling a perpetual need to justify herself against hypothetical judgement. In fact, even from this position of hindsight, the very act and existence of this performance is clearly another attempt at self-justification. Through the convincing and personal acting and staging, this is what resonates most – and subtly so. The words’ intimacy carry with them a sense of rawness that transcends ‘textbook’ and ‘pamphleted’ feminism, reaching into the depths of a person who they themselves do not know what to believe.

Does asserting one’s gender and body, perhaps through ritual, dress and sexuality, undermine or emphasise a woman’s power? Would a woman taking on supposedly ‘male assets’ be a taking control or a relinquishing of it? I’m Not Like Other Girls calls all of this into question, though rather than coming across as self-righteous, is presented in as though from the mouth of a young girl astride her mirror, her packed out bedroom filled with the imaginary applause of those who have listened and accepted the rawness of her honesty, that in reality she would never feel able to express.

My only criticism would be of the combination of staging with the script. Each effective in their own way, the script to me seemed too well thought out for the spontaneity of a girl folding away the contents of her wardrobe. That being said, the metaphorical impetus of the staging was undeniable: pack away your clothes, your cloaks, your preconceptions. Ironically, though, the performance had me won over before it had even started.

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