We Could All Be Perfect

Hannah Morley
Sheffield Theatres
Tanya Moiseiwitsch Playhouse

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The Company of We Could All Be Perfect Credit: Becky Payne
Rosa Hesmondhalgh and Alice Walker in We Could All Be Perfect Credit: Becky Payne
Anshula Bain in We Could All Be Perfect Credit: Becky Payne

This interesting and thought-provoking new play explores the life experience of teenage girls in a sequence of disconnected scenes which draw on a teenage tendency to question and rebel (think Greta Thunberg) and raise the issue, 'can teenage girls make the world a better place?'

Five accomplished young actresses, already launched on their careers, collaborate with writer Hannah Morley and director Ruby Clarke in sequences which may well have started in improvisation, now assured and convincing.

Unsurprisingly, the whole creative and support team is female, as was the majority of the audience who attended the press night and applauded enthusiastically, no doubt because they identified with the experience and values presented.

The simple stage is a white pathway which divides the space, adapts to the many different contexts with the audience on either side of it constantly visible to the other half. Music, classical and modern, and vigorous dance sequences add variety to the action.

The episodes are mainly contemporary, though one or two in costumes that suggest 'other' times and places are also included. The range of reference is considerable. The head of Medusa creeps in, though I am not entirely sure why.

Episodes include a search for female identity, as in one instance when a girl challenging a bully morphs into a worse bully herself; and another when a girl is politely approached by a kneeling suitor offering marriage who is bluntly rejected because she wants a relationship which recognises her needs. In a very brief episode, a distressed, heavily pregnant girl runs across the stage to escape the coarse language of her denigrator. Two young girls experience their first kiss. A shoplifter encourages another girl to steal. An amusing and completely recognisable short scene shows teenage girls screaming with pleasure or excitement or habit when they meet.

As can be supposed from the range of disconnected scenes recalled, it was a relief when Heather Forster representing a speaker at a conference spoke for more than 30 seconds, allowing the audience time to identify the context and acknowledge comments about climate change. While the director assures the audience in an interview that there is increased connectivity between the scenes as the play proceeds, this is difficult to appreciate on one hearing.

However, there is a great deal to enjoy in this production, notably the outstanding versatility of all five actresses and their ability to move rapidly from one scene to another. I particularly enjoyed Rosa Hesmondhalgh's maturity and clarity of speech, Heather Forster's rhythmic dancing, Alice Walker's sensitivity and Anshula Bain and Jada-Li's strong characterisation.

I do hope the script is going to be published. I would enjoy looking at it in more detail and think it would be an inspiring text for drama students.

Reviewer: Velda Harris

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