Some Girl(s) is somewhat reminiscent of the 2008 film ‘A Complete History of My Sexual Failures’, a documentary-style motion picture where Chris Waitt, a filmmaker and musician, who sets out to track down former lovers in a bid to understand what exactly went wrong. One or two, as I recall, threatened legal action against him just for contacting them after an acrimonious split. Such was his persistent unreliability and apparent obstinacy that even a phone call constituted a form of harassment.
While no attorneys are called for in this play (well, not explicitly), there is next to no subtlety in parts of the narrative. It’s not quite ‘in-yer- face’ theatre either though, and indeed it was subtler than some other Neil LaBute plays I have encountered over the years, though I hasten to add I have not seen all of them. There’s some clever use of projections to set the scenes up. The scene changes themselves are elaborate, and are worth watching in their own right, unusually. There is a certain choreography (if that’s the right word) to its ultra-efficiency. The whole thing, actually, flows together very well indeed.
The attention to detail, which took some time for me to observe properly, is impressive. What seems a very stilted and awkward conversation between central character Guy (Charlie Dorfman) and Sam (Elly Condron) is also a palpably uneasy reunion after some years. When I read the script I must admit I found it a little stale. But it’s very much brought to life by an engaging cast, who bring out the naturalistic dialogue and lace it with dark – and, where the occasion arises, sharp – humour. All those ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’ in the text paradoxically help the dialogues flow better, breaking up the conversation as the characters attempt to understand one another’s point of view. In short, it comes across as unscripted, rather like BBC Television’s ‘The Office’, even though we know it isn’t. The awkward silences are perfectly paced, such that the play is not punishingly relentless, but a steady journey navigating through different difficult conversations.
If Dorfman’s Guy doesn’t come across as all that convincing, this is, I think, quite deliberate. He is not always saying what he means and meaning what he says, a trait that continues to the very end of the play, and presumably, because of the way the play ends, beyond that. As the Old Testament asks, can a leopard change its spots? The audience does need a soliloquy, let alone an outright breach of the fourth wall, to work out why Guy has had so many relationships that didn’t work out. With this in mind, some of what he says is met with laughter and derision by the audience, although he is technically saying the ‘right’ things.
I found Tyler (Roxanne Pallett) a rather exaggerated character, though very likeable in a larger-than- life persona that oozes with warmth and charm. Guy comes across as honourable in his exchanges with Tyler and with the other ladies. He genuinely appears to be listening and is not overly defensive about his past or his previous actions. Carolyn Backhouse’s Lindsay sounded like someone putting on a posher accent to indicate their supposed elevated status in life. But hers was the most intriguing dialogue, and her actions stealthy. It was also good to see Carley Stenson as Bobbi – I do not recall seeing Stenson in a straight play before, having performed in a number of musicals previously. She more than holds her own in a delightful dialogue with Guy, in which she, like Lindsay before her, gives him a taste of his own medicine.
The increased nuances in the script relative to Neil LaBute’s earlier works are indicative of a more developed ‘voice’. It is, at face value, one one-on- one conversation after another, but collectively, the ‘girls’ are varied enough to maintain overall interest throughout. At first it was uncomfortable viewing, but once the audience got increasingly sucked into the story, the more the play’s punchlines elicited laugh-out- loud amusement. A diverse set of characters combined with a strong script provide a depth to this show, which could otherwise have come across as disjointed. It may have been disagreeable and strained in places, but it was always a fascinating and thought-provoking piece of theatre. I cannot say I liked it, because I loved it. Another successful production at the Park Theatre.
Review by Chris Comaweng
Buckland Theatre Company in Association with Park Theatre present Some Girl(s)
by Neil LaBute
Directed by Gary Condes
Cast includes: Carolyn Backhouse, Elly Condron, Roxanne Pallett, Carley Stenson and Charles Dorfman
‘Guy’ is desperate to clear his conscience before he gets married to his beautiful bride to be. But as he sets off on his psychological and physical journey across America, to make amends with four old flames, the question is: is there something – or someone – he’s missing?
With the blend of honesty, humour and heart, this riveting and ultimately liberating dark comedy is a perfect parable of modern relationships.
Written by multi Tony Award nominated Neil LaBute, Some Girl(s) has been performed both in London, New York and was adapted into a film in 2013.