The Lab, Theatre Royal Plymouth – until 21 July 2018
Girl(ing) by Run Like Stags
55 Minutes – no interval
The Lab, Theatre Royal Plymouth 01752 267222
Cormac Richards 17 July 2018
A black box stage. Some bottles of alcohol. A drum kit. We hear the strains of Vera Lynn singing ‘There’ll Always be an England’. A tall young man with a mop of curly hair enters wearing a white suit, a ruffle fronted shirt and a pair of wings. With a glint in his eye. He sits down at the drums and after a couple of cheeky false starts, bashes the kit. He is joined by 4 wide eyed young women who bellow out the historical background to the story we are about to witness. It seems that 1859 was quite a year in Victorian England. For a revelation took place
We are witnessing the story of Mary Ann Girling who from very humble beginnings received a calling directly from God to reject worldly matters and devote herself to him and in doing so, find a congregation to come with her on a journey as she believed herself the reincarnation of God. The story of this religious cult leader and her followers – the Shakers – is a fascinating one and in GIRLI(ING) it is distilled into an hour of fast-paced, punked-up, story-telling. Four performers (Lydia Breckon, Mai-Win Hagiwara, Emma Locke & Lydia Piper) rotate the role of Mary with ease while the contrasting role of the innocent Eliza is nicely played by Ellie Morris. All the while the show is accompanied by God on the drums – Florian Saturley – who is as adept with drumsticks as he is with the one-liner.
Through the story messages about female subjugation, inequality and disadvantage are explored as is the phenomenon of the religious cult which ultimately never seems to work out for the best. Mary Girling’s rejection of a ‘normal’ life and belief she would live forever, did not stop illness and her death at the age of 59.
The joy of this production was that the story was left clear for the audience to follow and be intrigued by. The use of modernisms – the stadium tour, the fan t-shirts – are cleverly woven into the show and so do not jar. Simple use of costumes – the Union Flag hat to identify Mary and passed back and forth, minimal props and an excellent lighting design and operation all contribute to a thoroughly engrossing piece of theatre.
The Lab at the Theatre Royal Plymouth is a black box space. For this production the audience sat on three sides of the performance area – with around 50 seats – some reserved for the performers who became onlookers. It is a small space and with loud music and use of microphones, the words were occasionally lost, a minor criticism, but it was a pity not to hear all that had been written.
The Lab Company is the Theatre Royal’s development programme for early career artists aged 18-30 from the local area and Run Like Stags are the resident group this year. With GIRL(ING) they present a coherent, irreverent but warm-hearted look at a fascinating story all done with great confidence, originality and a smile. They have set the standard very high.
Written by Mich Sanderson & Florian Saturley
Direction & Musical Direction by Lydia Breckon & Sarah Mitchell
Movement Direction by Mai-Lin Hagiwara & Emma Locke
Stage Design by Ellie Morris & Lydia Piper
Costume Design by Emma Locke
Technical Support from Dan Mitcham and John Purkis (TRP) cued by Mich Sanderson
GOD – Florian Saturley
MARY – Lydia Breckon, Mai-Lin Hagiwara, Emma Locke, Lydia Piper
ELIZA – Ellie Morris