Girls and Boys at the Royal Court
“If it gets difficult – and it will get difficult – I want you to remember two things: remember that this did not happen to you, and that it is not happening now.”
Dennis Kelly (Love and Money, Matilda the Musical) presents a new one-hander, his first collaboration with director Lyndsey Turner (Posh, Saint George and the Dragon). An engaging script draws its audience in with warmth and familiarity before the weightier concepts creep in. Our protagonist, a successful young mother, is played with well-rounded detail by Carey Mulligan. Add to this an impressive set by Es Devlin and the result is a lovingly formed commentary on grief and social conscience in which every component shines.
The narrative is a portrayal of everyday domesticity which, here and there, reaches tiny tendrils out into the wider world. There are throwaway references to the moment we’re living in, from American shooting massacres to Katie Hopkins, and sparse mentions of male violence and how we respond to it as a society.
Carey Mulligan is masterful as an independent woman painting a picture of her long-term relationship. She’s a charismatic storyteller, understated in her moments of heartbreak and relishes her many comical lines. Both believable and likeable, she soon makes it difficult to remember her with any other voice or stance.
Es Devlin’s set is as innovative and apt as one might expect from the award-winning designer. A detailed open-plan living room is painted with projections, which are then turned off to leave a uniformly colourless scene, like the blueprint of a life. The play is split between dynamic action and audience-facing monologues performed on an empty stage. That emptiness becomes gradually oppressive, until Mulligan is a vibration of warmth and resilience against the cold blue of her world.
The genius of Kelly’s script is that it holds back its full impact until the last minute. The universal concept that transcends the personal story is both a seamless conclusion and a seismic shock. It’s what turns the play from one woman’s story to a global and historical comment. Girls and Boys achieves what the best plays do: the ability to send its audience away with fathoms, acres to ponder on.
Photo: Marc Brenner
Girls and Boys is at the Royal Court from 8th February until 17th February 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.