E.V Crowe’s short new play is certainly no advertisement for boarding school life. Set in the 1990’s, it paints a worrying picture of ten year olds with angelic faces who swear like troopers and have the morals of alley cats. They lie, torment and bully without a moment’s hesitation – especially the marginally older Janey for whom everybody, including dorm-mate Mimi, is fair game. No wonder the somewhat neurotic housemistress thinks her charges are less than human – and not just because they lob tennis balls at her head.
Yet there’s something fundamentally sad about these prepubescent, supposedly privileged youngsters (primarily from broken homes and ex-pat families) packed off with a trunk and a tuck box to the austerity of what is, in Bunny Christie’s purposely drab design, a prisonlike institution where tears can only be shed in secret and the communal payphone is the main link with home.
Making their professional stage debuts, Madison Lygo’s tough but vulnerable Janey and Maya Gerber’s bright Mimi (with a starring role in the school play, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, which itself depicts a hothouse of female emotions) handle the brief, disjointed scenes of Jeremy Herrin’s production with confidence. And Ellen Hill’s intimidated Nina quietly suffers the indignity of being forced to execute a knickerless handstand in a promising but not altogether satisfying play.
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS
Tube: Sloane Square
020 7565 5000
Until 23rd December
– Louise Kingsley