Edinburgh Showcase 2017: ‘Girls’ by Talawa Theatre Company, HighTide and Soho Theatre

Talawa Theatre Company was set-up thirty years ago and it’s primary aim at the time was to give black actors
access to roles that they didn’t normally get to play, iconic roles, whether that be Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde,
roles that were traditionally not seen as black roles. So that was it’s main mission. Thirty years on, it’s
done over forty productions, many award-winning. You know I have never seen people so afraid. I saw babies barely able to walk by themselves. Where were their parents? Somewhere
drunk with fear forgetting they had a child. I saw Christina’s baby sister, she was just standing
there and everybody ran past her, back-and forth, kicking her out of the way like she was a football. ‘Girls’ is set in Nigeria and it focuses on three girls who
are kidnapped by a Boko Haram-esque-type organisation and basically we watch their story as they
develop strategies to cope with their predicament. I first met Theresa Ikoko, the writer of
the play – ahead of doing the production we did a reading of it when she won the Alfred Fagon Award – and immediately I just found the characters really
beguiling and engaging and really true to life. She writes young women incredibly well. They feel really vital, they feel really relatable and they’re obviously in a situation that is
absolutely at the extreme of experience, something that anyone would really struggle to deal with
but in it, we see their friendships that feel familiar. They feel familiar to me as a woman, they feel
familiar to people from all around the world. You could imagine three girls interacting in Brixton in London
in the same way that these three do in Nigeria in confinement. Good evening, gentle women and polished men, prestigious officers of press, media and correspondence. Because of you, from distinguished
international offices of news and broadcast I make my introduction for your pleasure
to you my name is Mr. Collin Rutaku. I think what Theresa’s managed to
do here is make us look at a subject that was really big in the news at one time and then
not any more as our interest in rolling news drifts and she’s picked up on a story and said
‘actually, what’s happened to these girls? Shouldn’t we still be talking about them?
Where are they now? Why is it that our media, as it is now, has us interested in certain topics for a day, for twenty-four
hours and then we roll on to the next one?’ and I think that’s one of the main themes in this that’s really
striking, which is the West’s consumption of news. You’re dealing with really traumatic
stories and difficult reference points and also a lot of our research was into real-life
stories, people who had experienced similar things and uncovering footage of them or interviews
with them and reading about their stories had a huge amount of influence on how
we built the characters in our play. But what if the American’s come to help, with
their drones, and they forget that we are here and – Why would they bother? There is nothing for them here. The Europeans wouldn’t bother either because a million
of us dying is still not as bad as a handful of them dying. Bad things are supposed to happen here. The audience walk out of this play, I think, moved. It’s quite surprising because the humour
is so upfront, the language is so funny but what’s happening is incredibly moving. I think you’re kind of unprepared for
where this piece will take you emotionally and I think that’s the power and
the strength of the writing. There’s something in it for everyone in that you can tap
into the politics if that’s something that is interesting to you, you can also feel really heartened
and engaged by these young women that you’re watching mature in front of your eyes. There’s a lot of humour, despite the dark setting
there’s actually a huge amount of comedy in the show and a lot of the rapport between the actors and
them as their characters is based on that, it’s the way that they know each other so
well and can really make fun of each other all with love but it’s joyful to see that happening on stage. Thank you Phillip. I am all the way
in this beautiful, exotic location here with Mr. and Mrs. Danja the
parents of the now famous Tisana. Mr. Danja you must be so proud of your daughter. ‘Mercy, I can’t even describe how I feel. Proud does not even cut it’.

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