Tanya Reynolds (Sex Education) and Rebekah Murrell (Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp.) are radiant in this open and emotional look at relationships – ★★★★
There’s a lot to love in Miriam Battye’s Scenes with Girls. Friends Tosh (Reynolds) and Lou (Murrell) muse on love, friendship, gender roles and more with natural and refreshing dialogue. Under glowing neon, the pair’s discussions – split up into ‘scenes’ – spark electric debates and bright ideas.
Scenes with girls also examines womenhood, scrutinising female gender norms and what the duo refer to as the ‘narrative’. It may not be completely relatable to male audiences (though that by no means affects its impact or importance), but it is when this view is applied to love which was particularly intriguing. Where does the platonic end and the romantic begin? What is there to gain from a relationship? What is love? (Note that this is not my quoting Haddaway, for the play is more appropriately soundtracked by Charlie XCX’s Boys).
As a pair, Reynolds and Murrell’s rapport creates a fascinating and genuine dynamic, their two characters shifting between disconnection and intimacy, completing sentences together whilst also cementing themselves as polar opposite individuals. Reynolds’ exceptional debut performance as a comically deadpan and literal Tosh collides with Murrell’s visionary thinker Lou. As we glide through scenes of varying length, we see Tosh grow more uncomfortable with how things are.
This is only exaggerated when engaged and slightly awkward friend Fran (Letty Thomas) shows up. Tragically underused as an character and brushed aside by Tosh and Lou, her arc is intriguing despite its very little airtime.
However, framed as a series of scenes rather than one full narrative, perhaps intentionally, Lucy Morrison’s (The Woods) direction is tight and precise. Slight micro-expressions, such as an eye roll from Tosh behind Fran’s back, offer further glimpses into the trio’s minds. In a similar jest, a toilet on set has never proven more insightful.
That is to designer Naomi Dawson’s credit. No stranger to more minimalistic staging – as her incredible set for the Young Vic’s The Convert showed – her set for Scenes with girls is not too dissimilar. A pit in the ground with a light blue carpet, along with a toilet without walls, the setting leaves everything open and exposed. As Tosh and Lou’s intimacy fluctuates, what happens behind each other’s backs is incredibly gripping.
At the heart of Scenes with girls is a striking authenticity. So in-sync are Reynolds and Murrell that the relationship they portray is tender and poetic, and their interrogation of love and friendship so incredibly intricate and honest.
Scenes with girls is now playing at the Royal Court Theatre until 22 February.
Disclaimer: I was invited to watch Scenes with girls for free in exchange for a review of the performance. I did not receive payment for this review. All opinions stated are honest and my own.