JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE SHAPE OF A GIRL at the Shore, Dundee, for The Scotsman 14.6.14.
4 stars ****
IT’S NOT A NEW PLAY, Joan MacLeod’s monologue for a teenage girl caught up in a fatal episode of school bullying. First seen in Canada in 2001, its story is based on a real-life incident that took place four years earlier, when a young girl was murdered by her schoolmates after years of sadistic mistreatment.
Yet despite the play’s history, Emily Winter’s new touring production for Dundee Rep – now on tour around local community centres – brings the show to life with an urgency and eloquence that suggests it might have been written yesterday, somewhere in Dundee. One of the striking aspects of MacLeod’s 60-minute play is that the solo speaker is not the victim, nor the chief bully, but one of those bystanders whose failure to intervene makes bullying possible. Vulnerable, needy, and on bad terms with her mother, young Braidie is simply unable to break her emotional dependence on gang leader Adrienne, until it is is too late; and now she lurks in her bedroom, frightened to go to back school.
Winter’s production benefits from a gloriously powerful performance from Rep trainee Caroline Deyga, and from beautiful, subtle graphics and animations by Sharon Campbell, like sketches from a teenage diary. Some of the images are simply superb, fragile and poignant beyond words; and in a fine duet with Carole Deyga’s performance, they help create a theatre experience that will provide rich food for thought for everyone who sees it – adult, child, or teenager, living through those changes that can go so tragically wrong, and that have left Braidie in such a troubled place.