Syncopated and bitty, Ish… seems like an attempt to record some of the absolute intensity of being a teenage girl that has so often captured our imaginations. Fairly submerged in layers of inside jokes – either with audience members who share elements of the creator Georgie Jones’ experience or even with her friends in the room – there are definitely some really pertinent gems to be found about the experience of growing up as a girl.
However, I’m actually really conflicted over how this show presents moments of trauma. My instinct would be to say that there are some times when the narrator experiences terrible things and then, it seems, moves the story on all too quickly. On the one hand, it would perhaps be nice to see these grow a little bit more, letting us track how the process of growing apart from trauma happens. On the other, sometimes life doesn’t really allow for that. Sometimes everything won’t wait for you to catch up, and you just have to keep moving forward. In the world that the narrator inhabits, to slow down or to stop would be all but impossible, and there’s just as much value in portraying the experience of not really having the space to deal with things.
Given the extent at which this play relies on a single performer embodying different stages of her own life, it might be nice to see a bit more of a tangible variation between the different ages. Creating more of a physical difference between them would make the jumps between different eras easier to keep track of.
There’s plenty to like here, but I particularly enjoy the talk of female friendships and the role they play for so many young women. I can’t help but think that her description of her friend group as “the ancestors of the witches who were never burned, alive and ferocious and triumphant,” can be applied to more or less every woman I’m close to. It’s a wonder to see close female relationships portrayed as sources of strength rather than pain.
I’ve got a strong sense that Ish… could grow into more than its current state. It could be bolder and braver, get a bit closer to the joy and the pain of being a teenager, and then a young woman. There’s something really interesting here, and I’m excited to see where it goes.
Ish… played on 3 May. For more information, visit the Roundhouse website.