About A Girl

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2016


Ellen Hodgetts

at 22:17 on 23rd Aug 2016



The synopsis of ‘About a Girl’ promises to ‘petrify’ its audience with ‘spine chilling horror’, intriguing phrases about which I was excited to discover more. Expectations are further piqued upon entering the venue, as we are welcomed by the discordant sound of storms and rain, creating a promisingly spooky atmosphere. Unfortunately, however, this production from the Wellington College Theatre Company misses the mark, with many of its attempts to frighten audience members falling flat. The music, whilst initially engaging and immersive, soon becomes invasive, and lines are at times drowned out. This does little to help my understanding of the plot, which is unnecessarily convoluted, with its ambitious attempt at a meta-narrative crumbling, merely detracting from the main storyline.

As a character playing a ‘director’ jumps up from the audience to interrupt the opening monologue, it is revealed that the protagonist is in fact on a film set, telling the story of his struggles with alcohol and his work, and the subsequent paranormal haunting which is causing him psychological trauma. Although the tickets are only £3.50, what promises to be a forty-minute performance is over in less than thirty. The ending feels unfinished, and as the lights come up audience members look at each other uncertainly, not knowing whether to clap or not. Applause is only initiated in full after an awkward signal of approval from one of the cast, and I was left feeling as though a lot more could have been done.

Whilst dealing with complex issues such as alcoholism, murder and the trauma of losing a child, these are only ever skimmed on the surface, leaving much unresolved. These weighty and problematic topics are undercut by the attempts at horror, which serve only to trivialise what could be a thought-provoking and poignant piece of writing.

It must be noted, however, that the cast work well with a difficult venue – the light coming through the ceiling means that they are never able to create a full blackout, and consequently the effects of ‘horror’ are somewhat lessened. Despite this technical hitch, it is an energetic performance that highlights the promising talent of this young cast. A particular moment that demonstrates the potential of these student writers and directors is that of the press release made by the father of the missing girl. It effectively becomes an eerie and chilling moment as a young girl dressed in white stands at each shoulder, mocking his pleas for his daughter to be returned home, a staging decision which cleverly foreshadows the hopelessness of his plight.

‘About a Girl’ is entirely student led, written and directed by current pupils of Wellington College, a impressive feat which emphasises the promising nature of the talent within this production. An ambitious attempt at new writing, it only stumbles because it takes on too much. The ideas at the foundation of the script have potential, but there are too many elements for any of them to become fully coherent.


Ryan Bradley

at 19:38 on 24th Aug 2016



Addressing alcoholism, spiritualism and rape, ‘About a Girl’ is surprisingly mature for a show made by teenagers. However, it bears the mark of a product composed, directed and performed by inexperienced youngsters. In truth, the script has promising qualities, using plain, natural language. However, it requires some development.

Boasting brief glimpses of merit, the overall picture is rather thin. Billed as running for forty minutes long, the show lasts for closer to twenty. Sadly, this results in a muddled affair. As the lights go up, a scarlet blush spreads like fire in a wheatfield. "Is this the end?" muttered an elderly couple behind me. The climax comes suddenly, leaving the spectators baffled. Events move too quickly, following a cluttered series of storylines. The addition of a docudrama framework seems to complicate matters even further. If Wellington College Drama Company tinkered with the script for ‘About a Girl’, they could easily forge a more refined play, even building on the dramatic potential which is clearly evident from the start.

Choosing to pursue the horror genre is a brave choice, but the limited budget and amateur acting makes it an inappropriate one. The group seems more comfortable with straight drama, touching on the addiction problems faced by a haunted police officer. This dark plotline could be expanded to great effect, a teacher’s abduction of the titular girl being another interesting, underdeveloped element. As expected, some of the actors cannot project their voice. Atmospheric music drowns out some of the dialogue. Thankfully, the cast make the best of this situation, dealing with other venue difficulties. I write ‘as the lights go up’, but light is an unwelcome presence from the very beginning. Attempts at mystery and general spookiness are nullified by oppressive skylights, but this is not the company’s fault. One could not have blacked out the skylights without breaking a neck. Besides, the strobe lighting is mostly effective anyway, being utilised to accompany spectral visitations.

As it stands, ‘About a Girl’ should be admired as a work in progress. The bold decision to tell a ghost story creates one or two intriguing moments. It suggests good things to come for the young cast and crew. Still, it ultimately lacks a cohesive sense of self.


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