by Lynn on May 15, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre For Young People. Written by Joan MacLeod. Directed by Patrick McDonald. Set and props by Scott Reid. Lighting by Jacquie Lazar. Music by Ian Tamblyn. Starring: Georgina Beaty.

Produced by Green Thumb Theatre.

Braidie is a typical fourteen-year-old teenager. She is frustrated by her mother who seems to constantly criticize her for one thing and another. She misses her brother Trevor who no longer lives at home. We don’t know the reason why he lives somewhere else. She misses him so much she has ‘conversations’ as if he were there listening to her tale of woe, or it could be she is writing to him and it’s just presented as a conversation.

She wants desperately to be liked by her popular girlfriends even when they start mistreating and bullying a shy, meek school mate. Braidie goes along with this to a point, but then her conscience kicks in and she becomes terribly conflicted. Should she remain silent while her friends bully and beat this shy girl? Should she report this abuse to the school and chance losing her friends?

At the same time as this situation is going on Braidie becomes obsessed with the newspaper accounts of the death of a teenaged girl by bullies in the girl’s school. They harrassed her over a period of time, beat her, burned her with cigarettes and finally killed her by drowning. As Braidie remarks, the girl who is the main bully is described as ‘a monster in the shape of a girl.’

The newspaper account is of course that of the death of Reena Virk in 1997. She had been bullied for months by a group of school girls until they killed her. Braidie realizes that the possibility for violence is in all of us, and to recognize that is the beginning of ending violence.

As with all of her plays, Joan MacLeod weaves a beautifully structured, deeply textured play about wanting to fit in so badly you do terrible things, whether it’s allowing people to bully you; remaining silent while you watch it happen, until finally you have to take a stand and do the right thing. She has written her play in such a way that it is informative, sucking us into Braidie’s world. MacLeod does not hector or lecture. Braidie’s description of one violent incident is both vivid and chilling.

As Braidie, Georgina Beaty is compelling. She assumes the persona of fourteen-year-old with out being over drawn or coy. She is loose-limbed, credibly conflicted, fragile and lost. It is a hugely moving performance from a young actress who did such good work in Highway 63: The Fort Mac Show at Theatre Passe Muraille earlier this season.

Director Patrick McDonald and his Green Thumb Theatre Company do important work by producing and directing plays that address issues that concern young people. The company has chronicled drug abuse and now bullying in The Shape of a Girl. The plays chosen by the company are hard-hitting. The young audience—twelve and older—was almost silent while they watched during a school matinee performance. Kudos to the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People for continuing its mandate to produce effective, accessible plays that detail the problems, hopes and fears of children and young people.

As I have said before, this theatre is a treasure. This production of this important play is one of the reasons why.

The Shape of a Girl plays at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People until May 19, 2011.

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