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A CurtainUp London Review
Scenes with girls

"Oh god Tosh can you not self-edit?"
— Lou
Scenes with girls
Tanya Reynolds as Tosh and Rebekah Murrell as Lou
(Photo: Helen Murray)
Scenes with girls is a curious mixture of scenes developed within the Royal Court's New Writers' Programme. Set in a flat share between two woman aged 24, Lou (Rebekah Murrell) and Tosh (Tanya Reynolds); these two women have decided to reject what they call the Narrative. The Narrative is the drive towards monogamous relationships settling into a marriage in which to bring up children. The rejection is of the power imbalance caused by patriarchy on women's self image and self determination.

I watch as my four year old granddaughter adopts everything pink and now she wants to go to fancy dress parties as Elsa from Frozen not in her doctor's outfit. The last one she went to, there were five Elsas! She has emancipated parents both of whom work, who dressed her in tops and leggings mostly, until she decided she only wanted to wear dresses. She has picked up the traditional female roles, wonderful play with dolls, bonding with other girls and caring for baby dolls at the nursery where she went four days a week. Female virtues ignored in the battle for emancipation.

Another child daily cared for by grandparents has been forbidden anything pink by her school teacher parents. It is fun seeing the grandmother intervene when the music teacher gives this child a pink drum or trumpet.

My granddaughter has been given choice unlike her own mother who was carefully not allowed to choose shoes and clothes for fear that she would want high heels at 6. Despite wearing quite a few of her brother's cast offs at about 7 my daughter rejected dresses and threw a beautiful German doll the length of the sitting room to express her displeasure. It was animals that became her first love. She read War and Peace at 10 mostly just to observe the faces of those expressing incredulity when she told them. She didn't go to parties with boys at 14, drink alcohol and have sex but dived into literature which she has since made a career of.

So back to Miriam Battye's millennials: Tosh and Lou have decided to live away from the Narrative. They live together in affection but all they seem to discuss is sex and men. Lou is the one who has sex, sex without love or romance, sex that she explicitly describes clinically and coldly, "I don't actually have any post partum guilt that I chose this human bagel of a boy to bang." There seems not a lot of sensuality or orgasm, other than faked orgasm, in Lou's sex life. She refers to the men as if they were a piece of meat.

I don't think the answer to patriarchy is for women to mimic the worst characteristics of controlling men.

Tosh listens to Lou, as whatever a hearing voyeur would be called, but actively listening and telling Lou that she is hilarious. At scene eight out of 22, enter Fran who I think used to flat share with them and knows one of them from school. Fran has met someone, "He's so uncomplicated. Honestly. He's like a girl." Fran must know what Tosh and Lou are thinking. Despite Fran's bright eyed optimism her description of her life with the understanding boyfriend is cloying. I now can identify a problem with Miriam Battye's play: I don't like any of the characters. Fran is too bland, Lou is too sexually detached and Tosh is weird but the performances are great.

There is a shocking denouement which thankfully is temporary and which calls for a complete reversal of one of the character's modus vivendi. The play is set in a square shape of fabric, shaped with steps like an empty swimming pool with mobile phones and lap tops, a bathroom to the rear. The pool may have had no water but I felt I was drowning.

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Scenes with girls
Written by Miriam Battye
Directed by Lucy Morrison
Starring: Rebekah Murrell. Tnya Reynolds, Letty Thomas
Designer: Naomi Dawson
Movement Director: Delphine Gaborit
Lighting Design: Nao Nagal
Sound Designer: Beth Duke
Running time: One hour 20 minutes without an interval
Booking to 22nd February 2020
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 22nd January 2020 at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Sloane Square, London SW1 (Tube: Sloane Square­­­)
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