We have a fascination with firsts. Having our first female prime minister has a sense of novelty about it, which would probably be equalled by a first Aboriginal prime minister. Both the reality and the possibility, however, are little more than symbols of a maturing atmosphere of equality; they offer nothing of real substance in themselves. The Girls, I think offers something of greater substance in its diverse vignettes around the theme of womanhood in a postmodern world.
Portraying a range of stories in a variety of mediums, The Girls is an engaging, if somewhat disjointed, performance. It is group-devised, and draws on the talents and experiences of its performers, who had to make decisions about what to reveal of themselves. In this sense, this is very honest and raw theatre, and it certainly has its moments, but it doesn’t lead to the most cohesive of productions. It is not unlike a talent show, with a range of performance qualities as varied as its subject matter. Despite the variability of the subject matter, all four performers have moments of brilliance.
Leah Baulch absolutely shines in her infinitely personable vocal performances, and perhaps the highlight of the evening is her rendition of Easy Money, which is enhanced greatly by her playful interaction with the audience and the ‘volunteers’ she selects. Baulch is skilfully supported by Hanna Cormick and Hannah Ley in her other highlight, He Hit Me (and it Felt Like a Kiss). Cormick is no less impressive in poetry and dance, and Ley in her candid monologues.
Diana Nixon, the show’s fourth performer and director, spends much of her time at the piano, and could fade into the background of the show if it weren’t for her heart-felt monologue where she laments not being able to claim the experience of everything she’s been shortlisted for on her theatrical resume. Playfully labelling herself ‘The Shortlist Queen’, she engages the audience in her light-hearted but serious analysis of these experiences, which are as much ‘almost successes’ as they are ‘almost failures’. She is somewhat more foregrounded than the admirable lighting design devised by Peter Butz. Carefully developed to enhance the performances, it is not overdone, but is nonetheless intricate and noteworthy.
While The Girls, overall, is an enjoyable night out and much more engaging than the election campaign of our first female prime minister, I fear it is let down by occasional over-ambitious vocal gymnastics and a little too much self-indulgence; then again, I am a mere male, so what would I know about self-indulgence? Some of the vignettes added little to the overall effect, and the show could afford to lose half an hour of guff.
The Girls is an honest production that relates well to its audience and a three night run doesn’t quite do it justice.
The Street and Made in Canberra present
Venue: Street 2, The Street Theatre, Childers St Canberra
Dates: Wednesday 28 July – Saturday 31 July @ 7pm & 9pm
Bookings: 6247 1223 or www.thestreet.org.au