When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout - Review

Sharman MacDonald's award winning play received the high standard of production that has become the trademark of this company. The play is a fascinating one that deals with the fragile and tortuous relationship between Fiona and her mother, Morag. Set on a beach in Scotland where the mother has invited the daughter for a nostalgic holiday their story unfolds through a series of interwoven flashbacks. Also invited is Vari, a childhood friend of Fiona whose dream of married life has, through reality, become a nightmare.

The play is highly charged, emotionally, but is lightened with comedy as we see the girls, in the flashbacks, age from 4 years old with their "willy games" to full sexual awakening at 15. Lyn Fernee & Serena Brand, as the girls, fully met the challenge of switching back and forth from adults to hilarious but convincing children. Not only did they manage to produce the right voices ranging from infants to naïve and truculent teenagers, but they also captured the matching body movements. Their tentative experiments and acquisition of sexual knowledge, from old wives tales and so often wrong, must have awoken quite a few memories for some of the audience.

Although Lyn was called upon to play yet another role which required a high amount of emotional output –- her third in a row that I have seen — it was delightful to see her have a chance to display her skill at comedy. Serena was wickedly delightful as a child, the purveyor of sexual knowledge albeit hopeless wrong and moving as the adult whose life had matched up to her expectations materially but not emotionally. One tiny criticism I have to make it that there were times, when her back was toward us, that I and my companions had difficulty in hearing some of her lines.

As the mother with the puritanical abhorrence of sex for pleasure rather than for procreation, Eleanor Gamper, completed the trio of excellent female performances that had been skilfully drawn out by the director, Tony Jaffe. Eleanor's portrayal drew from us sympathy that the character did not deserve.

Whilst the play is really a vehicle for three actresses, the minor role of Ewan, Fiona's boy friend, provided Wesley Magee with some moments to show his ability. He gave us a basically decent lad hiding inside a yobbish exterior.

This production gained, as have previous ones, from being performed in the Studio Theatre where "in the round" staging drew the audience into the action of the play and the emotions of the characters. The floor painting of the sand and beach was effective as was the lighting effects particularly those suggesting waves.

On the negative side I did find the constant rearrangement of the props for each scene an irritating disruption to the action. I realise that some of them may have been necessary to denote the time changes but I did wish that the Director could have come up with a better alternative.

It was sad that this fine production only played to an audience of some 20 people on the night that I attended — a trend that appears to be coming the norm.

Barrie Jerram