Scenes with Girls by Miriam Battye. Jerwood Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre, London SW1 to 22 February 2020. 4****. William Russell.

Scenes with girls
By Miriam Battye.
The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, the Royal Court, Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS to 22 February 2020.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 20 mins. No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 6000
Review: William Russell 22 January

Boys should take heed. Mariam Battye’s play is all about how young women consider men and whether they can do without them, need them, want them. It also, it seems, sends up the Bechdale test. One lives and learns. This is one of those American tests applied to movies in which two women talk to each other about something other than a man, a feminist rule of thumb which probably makes sense to feminists. Having never heard of it that aspect of Battye’s play passed me by. Tosh (Tanya Reynolds) and Lou (Rebekah Murrell) are 24 year olds share a flat. In some 22 short scenes they talk about men – Lou collects them by the dozen, but is not interested in anything lasting, while Tosh has pretty well given up and keeps trying to change the subject. They are not heading for a lesbian relationship, but just friends who have something in common. They also find their former flatmate, Fran (Letty Thomas), who comes to call, dead boring. Fran is engaged and is dead boring, which is beautifully conveyed by Thomas. The conversations are spiky, funny and beautifully written and performed, although it probably goes on a little too long as one does feel the point has been made over and over again – some come from Mars, some from Venus and when the twain meet it doesn’t always end up happily ever after. The performances are pitch perfect. Murrell managed to be a wonderfully slutty Lou as she keeps score of the men she collects, drops and replaces, while Reynolds makes clear the fact that Tosh, bored with it all, is searching for something to take the place of the chase. It could, of course, be about something totally different since the world of 24 year old women of today is hardly one that I know much about. However, that does not alter the fact this is a terrific evening of theatre, one which stimulates, informs and entertains, one from which one leaves a little wiser and much amused. It all takes place in a gorgeous duck egg blue set, which looks a bit like a swimming pool, in and around the edges of which the girls lounge and disport themselves. At the back is the flat loo which they do use from time to time, but for once nobody actually pees on stage, which makes for a blessed relief, although the toilet lid gets a lot of battering.
The Royal Court was, of course, home to kitchen sink drama so moving on to the bathroom seems somehow right. Scenes with girls is one for the boys – and the girls, who will, one assumes, recognise the dilemma facing three all too well. Fran’s resolution of her problem life is breathtaking, as is the way the other two couldn’t care less.

Lou: Rebekah Murrell.
Tosh: Tanya Reynolds.
Fran: Letty Thomas.

Director: Lucy Morrison.
Designer: Naomi Dawson.
Lighting Designer: Nao Nagal.
Sound Designer: Beth Duke.
Movement Director: Delphine Gaborit.
Production Photographs: Helen Murray,

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