“And it wasn’t planned, but we all just turn away, like, turn our backs”
The encroachment of social media and cyber-bullying into the classrooms and lives of young’uns today is proving to be fertile ground for writers as Evan Placey’s Girls Like That follows on from Kathy Rucker’s Crystal Springs in the late summer in exploring the ramifications of lawless behaviour in this uncharted territory. Placey’s play centres heavily in St Helen’s School, where the girls have known each other since the earliest days of primary, but such ties prove easily sundered when naked pictures start to be passed around digitally.
The boy gets away with it, he’s a real hottie and a stud in the making. But Scarlett isn’t so lucky, the girls she thought were her friends slut-shame her mercilessly, calling her a whore and worse, and relish the opportunity to make her life a misery. A company of six young women capture brilliantly the fierce energy of social groupings like these, the speed with which teasing becomes taunting, and the shifting power dynamics that exist within. This Friday morning performance was full of school parties and I wonder how much of it resonated with their own experiences…
Placey’s work is dramatically interesting too though, as competing time frames pull our focus one way and then the other in Esther Baker’s production. As well as their present, we see the group of girls at various stages in their timeline from age 4 up to 40+ to see the way their friendship – such as it is – has been cultivated through the years. And delving into the past to meet a range of women who made key decisions at key moments draws a powerful line through the history of feminism to ask pointedly how have people today ostensibly lost sight of what was so bitterly fought for.