Thursday, 23 December 2010


21/12/10, Theatre Upstairs (Royal Court)

1 hr 15 mins straight through. A bit of a dud, unfortunately, because it was a nice idea. Ten-year old girls at boarding school, swearing themselves blue in the face, emotionally needy, being beastly to each other one moment and clinging the next, discussing "annie" (anorexia), crushes and the like in brittle, staccato dialogue... and played by ten-year old girls. Unfortunately while one of the two main characters spoke well and convincingly and you could hear every word she said, the other was hard to decipher, having that high, apparently clear but actually rather muffled voice that many children have, and much of her dialogue got lost.

There were three girls and three adult actors -- a female teacher, a male governor ("Are you a paedophile?" one girl asked him brightly) and an older brother. The girls' dialogue and their deep-seated unhappiness, which breaks out in pashes and rivalries and jealousies and conspiracies and petty blackmail, was caught accurately. Part of the "plot" revolves around who's playing who in the school production of The Crucible, which of course the girls don't understand. The adults were much less convincing, especially the teacher. Perhaps we were supposed to see them as the girls saw them, but if that were the case the scenes with the teacher alone on the phone to the headmistress simply didn't work.

The set a pair of bunk beds and not much else. Tuck boxes and trunks (one of which is dropped out of a window). Grey school uniforms. Constant noises off: shouts, gossip, laughter, running, the whole place never quiet (and after dark the waving of torches in the corridors).

I'd say the author (E V Crowe) is one to watch.

Afterwards S said her boarding school was never like that and I was inclined to agree: neither was mine. A, being American, said she thought boarding schools barbaric. S and I defended them, saying we'd been happy at ours and well-educated. But afterwards I thought that what sticks in my mind is secondary school: prep school was a different matter and I remember ten year old boys being almost as beastly to some people (including me) as those ten year old girls.

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