Home » London Theatre Reviews » That Girl by Hatty Jones at the Old Red Lion Theatre | Review

That Girl by Hatty Jones at the Old Red Lion Theatre | Review

That Girl by Hatty JonesHattie Jones sometimes gets recognised when out and about in her daily life. She might be on a Tinder date or meeting someone new at work. And they can’t quite put their finger on it, but something about her is familiar. And sometimes, this isn’t the case. Sometimes they need a bit more prompting. Sometimes they need to be reminded that she once played the lead in the 90s family comedy ‘Madeline’, which has since received a minor cult
following, apparently. But times have changed since then. Now she works in advertising and, like the rest of us, just needs to find somewhere affordable to live. 

The play opens with Hatty (Hatty Jones) and the new account manager at work (Alex Reynolds) queueing up in the lunch room. The quick wit of the script (also written by Jones) is revealed immediately, with the duo’s comical interaction providing a lively opening to the play. It sets up the idea for us: that Hatty is often recognised in public, or at least she thinks she is. Throughout, Jones, Reynolds and, completing the trio, Will Adolphy, keep the energy of the play absolutely buzzing. It’s fast-paced and no one ever misses a beat.

As the story moves on, the plot struggles a little. It seems to sometimes move through questions in the dialogue, so although Tim Cook’s direction lets the play tick along, it doesn’t seem to have anywhere to get to. It sort of relies on Jones’ childhood fame as its entire inciting incident, but that was twenty years ago now, and it’s hard to maintain a story which wraps this key element so boldly at the core, without a tendency to slip into something self-indulgent. Or perhaps it’s a stylistic struggle: it plays with autobiography in a fictional world, but Jones’ personal life and the story of a house move and relationship struggles just aren’t particularly exciting. At the end of one of the scenes, Jones sits in darkness watching the centric film on her laptop as she mouths along to the dialogue. She’s obsessed with it apparently. But there’s an inauthenticity to this, which makes me question how much worth any of this story has at all. It seems like any other millennial struggle, just with a bit of throwback fame as a jumping-off point.

A mountain of cardboard boxes pile up on Sunny Smith’s set, and we spot marker pen drawings of the little French girl with the straw hat on a couple of them; a nice touch, but one which does suggest a deeper obsession with Jones’s childhood acting career that doesn’t seem to manifest itself much else in the play.

Some awkward staging: as Jones traps her hand rather unconvincingly in a clothes airer, or a moment when Jones and Adolphy hold a dance move for a tad too long to seem realistic. It’s almost farcical with these elements, but the moments aren’t quite choreographed tightly enough to achieve the comedy I think that they’re aiming for.

There’s something rather fascinating about that which sits at the centre of the play: the childhood fame which fades away into adult life; how you were once watched on VHS players worldwide, and now you’re hardly recognised on the street. But I’m just not sure what this play is asking or testing with this initial concept. Albeit a witty dialogue and a script which generally contains much humour, the stakes are low throughout: even if Hatty really can’t find anywhere to live, she can always move in with her sister Emma for a bit. There’s no sense of crisis in this play, or deliberation. The performances are great, and luckily three strong actors do enough to keep us entertained, but I don’t think the potential of this idea is fully realised quite yet.

3 Star Review

Review by Joseph Winer

‘It’s like people who think that ‘brunch’ is a hobby. And go to the gym, and watch sport. And live for Friday nights so they can get drunk with their sad little friends.’

Hatty was a child actor, picked from obscurity and thrust into the limelight when she was aged just 10. As the young star of the film Madeline, she travelled the world and became the toast of Hollywood. She’s now approaching 30, works in advertising and enjoys jogging.

She’s also being kicked out of her flat because her housemate is getting married. Inspired by the writer’s own experiences as a child actor, That Girl is a touching and brutally honest new play that places female friendship at its heart, investigating how they develop and erode as women approach their 30’s. The play explores the inevitable loss of youth and the contrasting effect it can have on a group of friends.
That Girl is produced by Brighton’s multi-award-winning Broken Silence Theatre and directed by the company’s artistic director Tim Cook.

That Girl:
Writer | Hatty Jones Director | Tim Cook
Stage Manager | Sophia Start Sound Design | Aran Knight
Producer | Broken Silence Theatre Lighting Design | Holly Ellis
Cast | Hatty Jones, Alex Reynolds and Will Adolphy

Dates: Monday 3 September – Saturday 8 September 2018
Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London, EC1V 4NJ.
https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk

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