Blue Elephant Theatre – until 23 November 2019
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Sixteen-year-old Alice thinks that her life is shit. Her dad is useless and her mum is weird, and she is convinced that she is the stereotypical plain sidekick to her beautiful best friend, Meg. She should be preparing for her GCSEs, but Alice is more concerned with finally doing “it”, as everyone else in the school year brags about their sex lives. Her crush, Jamie, finally shows some interest, and Alice prepares herself for the big moment.
Amy Blakelock’s monologue captures the angst and pressure of teenagers trying to emulate impossible body images and trying to fit in with the inescapable tribe mentality fuelled by social media. The unrealistic, unhealthy aspirations and relationships that the children think they must chase, and the unignorable digital evidence of every embarrassing moment caught and shared online are huge obstacles, and Alice’s story isn’t unusual or ground-breaking, but is depressingly familiar. Blakelock gives Alice a voice that is realistic and isn’t judgmental – Alice’s language veers between matter-of-fact diary entries and flowery descriptions that feel like she is going all out for an A* in her English exam, naivety and fatalism finally growing into acceptance and hope.
Director Hannah de Ville uses Verity Johnson’s set, Dan Saggars lighting and Anna Clock’s sound design brilliantly to build a superb sense of place and mood. The grid pattern of astro turf and stark white tiles on the floor is echoed by a wall of lockers that are lit beautifully, from a dreamy, soporific green at the pond, to a dull grey light in maths lessons.
Robyn Wilson is incredible as Alice, with a wonderfully physical performance that never turns into caricature. In a scene which could have been laughable as Wilson puts herself in various awkward positions as Alice finally loses her virginity, the confusion and disappointment she manages to convey is devastating. Thankfully, the play doesn’t become a quest for justice or vengeance, giving this chapter of Alice’s life a quiet, soulful ending full of calm maturity and hope for the future. A disturbing but touching play, powerfully performed and well worth a look.