Scenes with Girls is remarkable. It is ambitious, risk-taking, innovative, and brilliantly realised by its cast and creatives yet I am acutely aware that any words I try to wield to explain just why this is will fail to do it justice.
You see, I could say to you that writer Miriam Battye has given us a play that examines the passion, obsessiveness, even toxicity and pre-eminence of intense female friendships – but this would undermine the superb use and manipulation of language that is employed to demonstrate how the next generation battles to be politically correct and astute.
And I could add that the play’s observations on how women value sexual/partner relationships over long-standing and enduring friendships – but this would downplay the sense of challenges and misery that both can bring to the heart and mind.
In truth, this production is a magnificent tussle. It is an exquisitely nuanced insight into the complexities and demands of female friendships, especially for the next generations who are required to balance their views of men as unnecessary and expendable with the irrepressible need for their attention.
“They’re not that interesting you know
They are actually do smell and are worse
Like there’s a reason for those fucking T-shirts”
Rebekah Murrell and Tanya Reynolds are both excellent as the best friends locked into this intense co-dependent friendship. At times, it feels uncomfortable and even harmful; yet, at other moment, it is entirely indicative of intense friendships I and so many other girls have had. The bonds of female friendship can be deep and occasionally extreme – I’ve had that as have many others – but this is the first time I have seen that kind of friendship played out on stage, and explicitly when it is put into such an adversarial position to relationships with men.
Rebekah and Tanya are supported by a quite lovely performance from Letty Thomas who has the responsibility of playing the spare wheel; a girl friend who isn’t really up to the intensity and cerebral feminist political wrangling over the status of relationships as the other two. Her simple love for life and for finding joy where she can find it is a perfectly realised antidote and template for the two best friends to rally against (and – quietly – envy).
Direction from Lucy Morrison is smart and unobtrusive, allowing Miriam Battye’s concentrated prose to take centre stage and marking the field of battle for the three friends. Perhaps I am not clever enough to work out why this play, which is ostensibly set in a small flat, is given a set of an empty swimming pool or steam room as its arena, but this couldn’t distract me from this fiercely original work that is magnificent in its complexity.
Royal Court theatre, London, to 22 February 2020. Tickets from £12.
All production images by Helen Murray.