Reviews Brighton Published 19 July 2014

Miss Represented

Brighton Dome ⋄ 18th - 19th July 2014

Heartfelt sincerity.

Tracey Sinclair

It’s impossible to review something like Miss Represented objectively as a performance – and, indeed, it would perhaps be foolish to even try to do so. As a project that seeks to foster involvement in the arts by vulnerable young women, this showcase wears its motives on its sleeve – and such heartfelt sincerity is probably its biggest strength.

Miss Represented is an arts collective of aspiring young female artists from the local Brighton community (many of whom come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds), and this 45 minute multimedia presentation aimed at giving them voice.

In terms of quality, it’s a decidedly hit and miss affair – it felt under-rehearsed, with fluffed lines and nervous giggles aplenty – and it would also be easy to dismiss as a checklist of issues: teenage pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, abusive boyfriends, addiction and self-harm are all ticked off and the material veers dangerously close to PSA territory: ‘Hey, kids, don’t do drugs! Ditch that mean boyfriend!’ The video clips are well done and poignant and the rapping has a pleasing vitality and immediacy, but a couple of the musical interludes felt redundant and the scripted scenes were fairly banal.

Yet somehow none of this ultimately matters. Gauche and giggly they may be, but the performers have a rawness that strikes to the heart of the material. If their lines are banal – well, listen to any teenager talk on the bus and the dullness of most of their conversations will have you wanting to bang your head off something hard. It’s actually refreshing to be reminded that in real life teens don’t possess the effortless eloquence of a John Green novel; the very mundane nature of their problems is part of what can make them feel so oppressive, especially when they haven’t yet developed ways to properly articulate the issues that are troubling them. One of the first scenes is a circular discussion on self-harm that emphasises it’s not the job of a damaged girl to find the ways to communicate her needs, it is the job of the adult world to try and help her. Dismissing those not raised with the social skills to speak openly about their struggles as ‘not really wanting help’ is demonising the disadvantaged still further.

Theatre is still, depressingly, a world dominated by men, and in the current economic climate, looks set to become even more of a middle class enclave than it already is, as the traditional routes for working class people to enter the profession become financially unviable. A project like this shows what we are missing when we allow such a reality to exist, when we only hear working class voices through the filter of those who see them, however sympathetically, as the subjects of a drama one step removed from their own comfortable lives. Unpolished and unpractised these young women may be, but in their unfeigned authenticity they have a vibrancy that should be nurtured and developed. They have something to say about the world they live in, and productions like this should be applauded for giving them a platform to be heard.

The girls’ final sign off – cheerful singing, passing heart shaped notes to the audience and waving messages of hope and positivity – might seem trite in its simplicity, but it’s hard not to get swept up in their justifiable pride at the evening’s accomplishments.

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Tracey Sinclair

Tracey Sinclair is a freelance editor and writer, a published author and performed playwright. She writes for a number of print and online magazines and most recently has focused on the Dark Dates series of books, including A Vampire in Edinburgh. You can follow her on Twitter under the profoundly misleading name @thriftygal

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