Bold Girls - Review

One could be forgiven for thinking that a play set in Belfast during the troubles would be a political diatribe with the men as the protagonists.

Such assumptions are wrong for Bold Girls tells of life, during that turbulent time, as seen through the eyes of three women. The bombing, burning and shooting may be going on around them but these act only as the periphery to the story. Each woman is on their own struggling to bring up children and to live a life of relative normality.

Marie’s husband has been killed whilst Norah and her daughter, Cassie, each have husbands who have been interned. As neighbours they support each other and bicker the audience is drawn into their world through their banter. Amidst all this naturalistic chatter there is an underlying feeling of unease.

Into their lives comes a young girl, Deidre, a waif with wild eyes, appearing ghostlike at first as she delivers a liturgy describing the violence surrounding her. Her words have a mesmerising, almost poetic quality. Gradually she takes on a more robust shape as she becomes the catalyst that disrupts their lives and shatters the idyllic dream that has been sustaining Marie. Christine Wood’s performance was a sensitive portrait of the young girl’s vulnerability.

The writing is beautifully crafted with great gusts of humour that withers instantly as a serious note is skilfully introduced – the laughter dies on the lips. The interactive dialogue is suspended from time to time to allow the characters to address the audience. One of the best of these monologues is delivered by a radiant Marie as she describes her wedding day, delayed for two hours by a road block during which time her husband to be waits patiently for her. Amy Holmes, as the good natured and trusting Marie, was delightful - her face radiating goodness. She was heartbreaking in the scene where she breaks down after her illusions are destroyed.

Another moving monologue came from Cassie as she talks of the father she knew and loved – the perception of which differs from that of her mother’s. Claire Armstrong gave a strong performance that mixed toughness with dreams of escaping to a better life. Sparks flew when mother and daughter clashed. Sarah Davies provided a superb foil as Norah – tough as an old pair of boots when it came to challenging soldiers but devastated when faced with the possible desertion by her daughter.

The play was directed by Jerry Lyne with a deft touch that drew out fine performances from all four members of the cast. The Belfast accent was successfully sustained throughout although at times the clarity of the words was lost. Whilst the play generated many laughs most of the cast were guilty of not pausing for them and speaking through them.

The re-arrangement of the set after Scene 3 took a little time and broke the momentum of the play. The use of screens to cover the kitchen set could have speeded things up.

A neat directorial touch was having the action at the end of final scene frozen as the lights dimmed and the closing music coming up. It emphasised that the story was not over but ongoing for the characters.

One final gripe – The NV of late seems to be catching the trend developing in the professional theatre of having the curtain go up after the advertised time. On this occasion the play started ten minutes late.

 

Barrie Jerram
11 November 2009