Review: Girls, Pleasance Courtyard

Theresa Ikoko, winner of the Alfred Fagon and George Devine Award, presents the theatrical masterpiece that is Girls, alongside Talawa Theatre Company, HighTide and Soho Theatre productions.

Working on a minimilast set with three young black actresses, Ikoko’s script is funny, heart-wrenching and incredibly relevant to today.

Girls begins with three girls having a conversation about penises. We are invading their intimate and innocent converstions about sex and relationships. The quality of the writing is such that already their relationship with each other, and their personalities, shine through. Haleema, Ruhab and Tisana are school friends who are kidnapped. The kidnapping is not something that is immidiately explicit. In fact, the girls distract themselves from the outside world by braiding each other’s hair and talking about love, sex and relationships. As they are forced to work in a camp by their kidnappers, they fight through tough conditions and their friendship is tested. Each character, a women in her own right, strong in her own way, is three-dimensional in a way that black women in plays are often not. It was beautiful to see fully developed black women on stage.

The play follows the girls as they plan to escape. Each one has her own view on whether they should even attempt an escape or just do as their captors command.

As they complete the work given to them, they face even greater challenges: pregnancy, fear of marriage and debating whether or not they should compromise their faith for their own safety.

Girls brings with it a debate that has been plaguing us since the rise of social media: is social activism so far removed from the situation that it almost forgets about the people it is supposedly fighting for? These intelligent girls are aware of that. They know deep inside that no-one is coming for them, that all they are to the West is cause to fight for. The self awareness of the girls doesn’t surprise us; they are fully engaged with the world around them. Inspired by Boko Haram’s kidnappings, this play reminds us time and time again that  there are still girls who have not returned.

Within 90 minutes, these three actresses brought us to tears. We felt everything they were feeling, from the death of unborn children to the joy found in the little things, we were with these girls every step of the way. When they argued about their choices we are hit with the gravity of their situation; they are stuck between being their captors’ pride, and being their family’s shame.

Ikoko makes us laugh before making us weep. Nothing is sugar-coated in this powerful and political play. If you see only one show at Edinburgh Fringe, make it this one.