HAPPY GIRL

Fri 7th – Sat 15th August 2015

reviews

Beckie Rutherford

at 11:26 on 8th Aug 2015

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As a piece of new writing Happy Girl would be better characterised as a light-hearted satire of teenage melodrama rather than a punchy feminist piece. The balance between trying to provoke the audience to think and encouraging them to laugh was definitely weighted towards the latter, so if you fancy a giggle at the expense of some outrageous stereotypes then this could be up your street.

After a slightly disjointed start, the play hit its stride once the key characters were established and the typical narrative (a new girl’s rite of passage of experiencing a drunken house party) became clear. Eleven cast members from the Crowded Nest Company formed a comprehensive troop of bitchy and superficial sixth formers feeding upon one another’s insecurities.

The comic timing of some of the stronger actresses such as Merle Wheldon Posner (who stood out as boy-hunting, aspiring gym-goer, Emma) just about prevented what could easily have slipped into a display of caricatures. However, the personal developments of some of the more sensitive characters such as secret book-lover, Jules (Aoife Doherty) and mature, down-to-earth, Faye (Phoebe Strickland) were sadly underplayed and lost within the wider hormonal whirlwind.

The audience were on board for funnier moments such as the leg-waxing episode - who hasn’t thought of their smooth, hairless limbs as being “smooth like a dolphin”? The changing room scene also offered a droll take on the double-edged sword of complimenting, and was a clever inclusion of all eleven characters – something that was rarely achieved in other parts of the play without the stage seeming overcrowded.

Rose (Ruby Deady Ridge) stole most of the laughs, largely because her clownish antics and occasional sarcasm provided a refreshing break from the otherwise relentless barrage of bitchiness.

Details in the set such as posters of recent marketing campaigns alluded to the broader feminist themes which were touched upon within the play, and undoubtedly the performance would have had greater depth had these been explored more explicitly.

Overall, Happy Girl is worth a watch if you have a particular appetite for satirized teenage angst, but is unlikely to satisfy if you’re in search of something poignant.

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Izzie Fernandes

at 11:59 on 8th Aug 2015

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If the predictable irony of its title hadn't given away the subject matter, the posters of half-dressed women around the sparse and yet effectively used thrust stage immediately erased any doubt that the audience was in for an exploration of female qualms. The best of these posters read ‘Don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn the beer’, giving the audience an immediate sense of what was to be explored.

From the Suffragette movement, to T-shirts now sold in H&M describing feminism as ‘the radical notion that women are equal to men’, it is not as if this play explored a subject matter which was inaccessible. However, there was an undoubtedly teenage feel about the piece, where the naivety of the 17 year-olds being portrayed was not always easily distinguishable from the reality of the young actors themselves.

To slate the media and all of the insecurities which it fuels doesn’t seem beyond the pale, and deployment of top 40 songs and voice-overs for various ‘women orientated’ adverts engaged with this, whilst simultaneously making for some effective scene changes. Yet, despite thoughtful use of staging, props and costume, what initially seemed an easy watch at times became bound-up by clichés and forced stereotyping.

The innate competition of teenage relationships and persistent reiteration of the word ‘bitch’ gave a sense that this show was ‘Mean Girls but with a message’. However, the cast was large and the performance lengthy. The cooperation of cast members and clever use of monologue, split staging and freeze frames helped touch upon the teenage struggle and underlying feminist implications, but the concept (that happy girls are not a myth) was presented through a somewhat lengthy and in places underdeveloped plot.

That said, effective choreography gave an uncomfortably real sense of being part of this group of 17 year-old girls experiencing their first taste of Smirnoff, short skirts and snogging. Sporadic giggles from the audience and nods of recognition affirmed that, whilst the message was clunky and exaggerated, there were some lovely moments.

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