(29 Feb & 1 March, Stereo)
The STAG production of Evan Placey’s ‘Girls Like That’ explores the hierarchy of a tightly-knit girls’ school community, and charms the audience with its dynamic all-female cast. The play follows a group of girls who grow up aware of their place in the social pecking order. The central character, Scarlett’s popularity with boys places her as the lowest of the low in the other girls’ eyes. As a naked picture of her spreads around the school, her schoolmates start to systematically isolate her, leading to an unexpected, but expectedly melodramatic, conclusion. The central message of the play is well communicated: in 2016, women’s internalised misogyny has usurped the efforts of men in the maintenance of female oppression.
The script includes an abundance of teen drama clichés, but the vibrancy of the cast members means even this well-worn material feels fresh. Although the play is almost two hours long, it doesn’t experience fatigue, since the structure stays coherent and immersive. The school scenes are intercut with short monologues from women of different eras — a flapper girl, an air pilot, a hippie, a shoulder-padded businesswoman; these women represent the generations who were oppressed by the opposite sex and the wider society, and ultimately contrasted by the current generation of girls, selling itself short and oppressing themselves by slut-shaming and bitterness. The play makes a case for the madness and futility of this phenomenon, which sadly rings true to real life, as most girls can probably testify to having seen or experienced similar behaviour.
Visually, the play is no-frills and functional, being set on the stark Stereo basement stage. Scenes are separated with efficient lighting and settings created through body language. This is a play truly made by its actors, as the script is fairly standard-fare, and thankfully they do truly shine. The exaggeratedly adolescent facial expressions and feminine/masculine body language are a source of constant amusement. The characters seem like caricatures of how teenagers act, but isn’t unrealistic, since these are characters constantly aware of how their peers look at them and how they are expected to act by. This flippancy is only broken by the central character, Scarlett ‘the harlot’, when she is finally given a voice to deliver the central monologue of the play. Her actor does a formidable job, being real enough in her melodrama to make it truly haunting. The play succeeds in delivering a postfeminist message, and having fun while doing it.