EFR - Reviews of Angels In Heels

Angels In Heels

Thu 2nd – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Leah Eades

at 21:50 on 2nd Aug 2012

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This might not be groundbreaking theatre, but it’s a sweet, funny and warm play about school girls who are, if not quite the angels the title suggests, ambitious teenagers struggling with A-levels and UCAS against a background of rising tuitions fees, poverty and romantic and religious struggles. This was a strong piece of new writing, which keeps you tittering with chat-up lines like “I’ll send you lots of sheep on Farmville!” and some of the best drunk dancing I’ve seen in a long time – as someone who celebrated their own A level results on a night out in Deansgate, I can vouch for their verisimilitude.

The cast were a universally talented bunch (word on the grapevine is that one of their number has been approached by an agent already following the previews, so keep an eye out) and I was immediately worried that their characters would fall into the stuff of stereotypes: you had the sassy, slutty working-class girls and the goody two-shoes middle class ones. Unfortunately for two of the main characters, we never moved much beyond these initial impressions, which was a shame as it felt like the actors were left unchallenged by more complex roles and made the friendship that should have been tying the entire group together seem less believable. Luckily, regarding the remaining two main characters and the plot in general, I enjoyed having my expectations set up and then having the clichés dashed in surprising ways. You could see the (spoiler alert) illicit student-teacher affair coming a mile away, but I didn’t expect it would be the schoolgirl racked by Catholic guilt that would break his heart, and whilst I was waiting for him to explosively suggest that taboo word “abortion”, I had my feet taken out from under me by the brilliantly awkward, sad, anticlimactic break-up of his “I love you” being met by “But I want to go to uni...” Similarly, we find out that the character who’s been struggling to get her schoolwork done whilst earning money and looking after her younger siblings has been, in true underdog style, successful in getting into uni – only to still not be able to afford to go anyway.

These little twists kept the play fresh and moving, and I really would recommend going and seeing it one afternoon- it’s well-written, has strong acting, is full of energy and is free!

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Yara Rodrigues Fowler

at 10:01 on 3rd Aug 2012

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Remember watching your friends’ A-level drama pieces? ‘Angels in Heels’ is something like that - entertaining, cringey and somewhat makeshift. The impediments to its comic or dramatic success - and there are elements of both in the performance - include mainly the dodgy facts and intensely over-done school clichés which drive the principal movements of the plot and character development. There were several points during the play during which I found myself thinking that a willing audience, whilst prepared to imagine a set, character history or age, can reasonably expect performers and writers to do a quick wikipedia of their pivotal facts before staging them.

Those which especially affected credibility related to the school-life and the transition to university - a period which has proved, when in the right hands, to yield poignant comedy gold. Given that the story moves by contrasting the lives of four school-girls over the course of a year, realistic detail in this area would have been, not only informative but necessary to and constituent of any attempt at political and social commentary. For example, why are Laura’s English Literature essays all about Henry VIII and the Reformation? How does she get into Cambridge with 3As? And if Tania from the council estate really has no money then why doesn’t she qualify for a fee waiver?

Moreover, the twists, cliffhangers and challenges presented by the play are for the most part unoriginal, and it is in this way that ‘Angels in Heels’ most closely resembles an A-level improv-turned-exam piece. It includes: a teacher-pupil make-out scene (although quite awkwardly enjoyable and tense), a pregnancy scare, a strict Catholic mother, qualms about pre-marital sex, an academic underachiever with a good-heart from a council estate and some good old under-age clubbing. This, together with the factual glosses mentioned above, all point towards an over-simplification which deeply reduces the value of the performance to the audience, perhaps resulting from an over-ambitiousness concerning how many events and issues the play could include. My instinct is that ‘Angels in Heels’ could do with less breath and more depth.

‘Angels in Heels’ includes some laughs and genuine creativity, mostly when attempting their drier moments, in particular those including class-pervert Kirk (Owen Pullar), a charming producer of fake IDs with a penchant for year 10 girls, whose explanation of Henry VIII’s first divorce is, “because he was fingering Camilla Parker-Bowles”. Pullar shows adroit acting skills, switching, accent and all, to the family doctor later in the show.

Pullar aside, the cast’s performance was generally efficient - the small space at the Edinburgh Football Club was used well, and the many costume changes adeptly-managed, although the accent-swapping seemed at times too much for Amy Waugh in her role as mother, and Tania’s (Darlene Charles) entire lack of Mancunian pronunciation was at once conspicuous and bizarre.

Altogether this production requires some work, and while the execution is likely to improve, it is hard to imagine - barring a rewrite - that its wholesale lack of originality could be remedied.

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