Review: Those Girls, Jam Productions

After previous Edinburgh Fringe Festival success with ‘Secrets of Us’ and ‘Extremism,’ JAM Productions had hoped to return to Edinburgh in 2020 with a new play to dazzle audiences far and wide. Although the streets of Edinburgh are relatively empty, the spirit of the fringe lives on online!

Specialising in new and innovative work, Buckinghamshire-based theatre company JAM Productions aim to produce professional and relevant theatre shows with and for young people. With a cast of 16 actors, aged between 13 and 20, JAM Productions present their newly developed play Those Girls, as part of the festival Online@theSpaceUK.

Those Girls is a reimagined adaptation of Abigail Cook’s award-winning poem ‘How We Survive (Girlhood),’ which celebrates all the girls and friends that Cook shared her adolescence with. The play itself, features the poem, personal stories and scenarios from young people, as well as a few inspirational quotes from classic literary icons. It’s a homage to girlhood in all its glory and darkness.

Mirren Wilson – A sketch inspired by the piece

Directed by Sam Mitchell and Cook herself, this digital work is full of striking, fast-paced and aesthetic images – very Instagram-worthy. There’s a real nostalgic tone throughout the piece, emphasised by polaroid frames, 90s video camera shots and dreamy music by Max Richter. There’s a clever manipulation of light and dark images to really play with the audiences’ emotions and the piece becomes very visceral with all the fleeting film.

These characters feel poetically anonymous, in that they really could be anyone going through very big and scary, but unfortunately normal, life events. What is powerful about this piece is hearing the dark themes of life directly from an honest young voice. With a strong focus on themes and issues such as mental health, discrimination, repression, sexuality and sexual abuse, Those Girls exposes and rips off the glamour and prettiness of what it means to be a young woman in today’s society.

Although textually and visually impactful, the structure, and at points its content, is slightly confusing. The personal stories are woven throughout the poem and the focus quickly alternates between a group of women and an individual, thus it can be a struggle to identify which is which. In addition to this, the passage of time seems to be indicated by literary quotes on the relevant seasons which feels jarring in the midst of the poetry and imagery, although thought-provoking, it takes us out of the story.

Those Girls is a captivating and emotive glance at the girls in our society. This piece feels like a visual montage or collage made by a group of friends, it’s edgy and slightly messy, but in a deeply natural way. Ending on a hopeful note, these experiences only build strength, friendship and solidarity – those girls will be proud women who are who they are because of their stories.

Those Girls is now streaming on YouTube. For more information, see The Space’s website.