‘Head Girl’ at the Edinburgh Fringe review – Implausible pupil politics

Positive affirmation only goes so far in Head Girl. 17-year-old Becca (Caitlin Fairlamb) dreams of success in student politics with exaggerative and giddy grandeur, malleable to the suggestions of others with little self-assurance. The dilemma is simple enough: is her heart really in it if she’s such a pushover in terms of her objectives? The execution, meanwhile, is poor and painfully inconsequential.

It’s clearly inspired by the many high school-themed media that’s been churned out over the past few years. The soundtrack is probably one of the few commendable aspects of the production, with its sprinkling of Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u” and KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See” tapping into the teen tastes of past and present.

Elsewhere the play’s understanding of what today’s young adults are into is really hit-and-miss: getting it right with Dungeons and Dragons and oh so wrong with Gnomeo and Juliet. A school anthem to “Land of Hope and Glory” is excruciating; school friend Lily’s (Rowan Miller, who in fairness juggles several roles commendably in the 45-minute running time) blossoming relationship with Josh is unnecessary and leads nowhere. One scene in which Lily creates a limerick for her love interest is jarring and meaningless.

Even her advice to Becca around positive manifestation – that is, that good things will happen if you will it to be – is ridiculous when the play’s own conclusion undermines that very concept. The subversion around how we expect to happen with Becca’s head girl dreams isn’t even effective. There’s no commentary or overarching argument around self-belief, ‘girl bossing’ or student politics in Head Girl; it’s just incredibly underwhelming.

Head Girl is now playing at theSpace on North Bridge and then on the Mile, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022, until 20 August.

Production Images: Emma Solomon Photography.

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