Girls at Soho Theatre
“This world is not for girls.” That’s what one of three friends says to the other two near the end of Theresa Ikoko’s new play, Girls, showing at Soho theatre between 27th September and 29th October. The persecution of women is just one of the many themes present in this touching contemporary tragicomedy concerning three kidnapped Nigerian girls, imprisoned under the dominion of a radical Islamist sect. This is an important show that explores complex geopolitical issues through the provincial prism of confined storytelling.
Set on a small, intimate stage with minimal set decoration and few props, the performance achieves a sense of claustrophobic psychological realism. We never see their oppressors, but we observe the girls as they chore in their lodgings; discuss God, warfare, their abysmal situation; and test the limits of their friendship. The camaraderie established between the excellent cast members is a convincing one, despite a rather simplistic characterisation of each individual: Haleema (Anita-Joy Uwajeh) is cynical, Ruhab is naïve (Yvette Boakye), and Tisana (Abiola Ogunbiyi) is innocent. What is clear is Ikoko’s interest in the sense of vitality and community that exists between working women and friends, even when placed in the direst of situations. Despite lengthy theological and political conversations – one particular cri de coeur against the replacement of real action with hashtags is a highlight – this is also a very humorous piece; everything from penis size to Beyoncé is intertwined within the heavy subject matter.
A lot of this humour comes from the girls discussing their various fantasies, and it is in fantasy that the characters find hope: hope of escape; hope of being recognised as the most beautiful person on the continent; hope in the benevolence of western governments. Each girl has a coping mechanism they use to survive: tell themselves stories, which in turn influences their actions. Naturally Girls positions these women as symbols of faceless others facing similar circumstances, with Boko Haram being at the forefront of instances. Unfortunately, the conclusion is slightly tenebrous, achieving more bewilderment than emotional resolution. However, this had already been achieved when Tisana discusses how the UN or “countries like Britain or France” will be out there fighting injustice and sceptical Haleema screams “They don’t care!” Her acerbic accusation that “nobody gives a shit” hits hard, and it does so because you thoroughly believe in the veracity of the story playing out in front of you.
Girls is at Soho Theatre from 27th September until 29th October 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for the show here: