Review: Girls Like That, West Yorkshire Playhouse

It’s taken over 20 years for West Yorkshire Playhouse to have a youth theatre and this is said youth theatre’s inaugural production.

Worth the wait? I’ll say.

While the performances on show were undeniably those of a group of young non-professionals, the effort put into the production is clear to see. Director Gemma Woffinden’s work with the large cast is obvious from the outset. She grabs hold of the production with a firm hand, but gives the young people the freedom on stage to play with their roles. Written by Evan Placey, the fast-paced script sometimes teeters over the edge into becoming didactic and while it has been written in collaboration with young people, you can’t help but feel at times that it has been diluted and sanitised for a theatre audience.

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The piece is an interesting take on the classic American novel The Scarlet Letter – the lead character’s name, Scarlet, the big giveaway. Here Scarlet is a teenage girl whose boyfriend takes a naked picture of her, which is then texted around the whole school. The pack mentality, the hypocrisy of modern morality and the sometimes flighty nature of teenage friendships are all put under the microcscope. It has shades of a technologically sophisticated Lord of the Flies at times.

While this is pitched as an ensemble piece, Daisy Addison as Scarlet dominates the stage and that much of her on stage time is wordless, yet she still communicates desperation at her situation, is seriously impressive.

The fact that the inaugural production by the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s youth theatre is a newly commissioned play written by Placey, and a co-production with the Playhouse, Birmingham Rep and Theatre Royal Plymouth, lifts this out of what might be thought of as the ghetto of youth theatre.

That is not to be disparaging, for a moment, about youth theatre, it’s just that it doesn’t always receive the respect those working incredibly 
hard to make it happen, deserve. This show bodes 
well for the youth theatre’s future and perhaps might make more people take 
youth theatre a little more seriously.