‘Bold Girls’ Citizens Theatre, Glasgow [theatre review]
Telling the story of ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances is a tightrope walk between falling into preachy grandstanding on one side and soapy melodrama on the other, and requires a flawless performance from writer, actor and director to pull off. Bold Girls at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre has some serious wobbles along the line, but ends well with a late-in-the-act flourish.
Bold Girls follows a night in the lives of four Belfast women during The Troubles; kind hearted widow Marie (Lucianne McEvoy), her world weary best friend Cassie (Scarlett Mack), Cassie’s fiery mother Nora (River City’s Deirdre Davis), and mysterious 16-year-old Deirdre (Sinead Sharkey).
No men appear on stage, but in Bold Girls men are everywhere in the thoughts and actions of its four main characters. All four cling to the ideals they’ve built for the most loved men in their lives, and desperately try to stave off the truth in order to avoid an inevitable broken heart. It carries on to such an extent that I wonder if a play like it would be written today – Bold Girls is funny and sad and ultimately hopeful, but it’s not exactly Right On.
A revival of a play that came early in the career of Scottish playwright Rona Munro, the script is moving and lyrical in places, and then snappy and laugh-a-minute in others. Munro’s writing has an almost musical rhythm that the actors often can’t catch up with or slow down to (ropey Northern Irish accents don’t help), and only Deirdre Davis’ Nora is able to consistently keep time. A bad line reading feels like you can almost see the words of the script rather than hear the natural flow of the dialogue, but Davis brings an easy pace in which the other actors naturally fall into around her. Without her the rhythm spikes, and jokes and barbs are dropped and a climatic ending almost botched.
But just when you think that Bold Girls might collapse into a heap of Eastenders-esque melodrama, Lucianne McEvoy’s performance as the emotionally exhausted Marie in the last moments of the play elevates the whole production and sets it back on its feet. Shell shocked and battling grief and betrayal, Marie is asked to show kindness in her darkest hour, and McEvoy’s slow ginger movements flecked with sudden bitter outbursts and teary confessions shows an actor in complete control of her character’s total loss of it.
Despite its missteps, this production of Bold Girls ultimately moves its audience with its message that’s there’s a quiet, iron strength in the act of kindness and love.