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'A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar)' review

  • Theatre, Drama
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A brilliantly unsettling two-hander set in the future

The title sounds like the setup for a gag but sometimes, during Lulu Raczka’s tricky play, it feels like the joke’s on us as we try to fathom the enigmatic language, Ali Pidsley’s slippery direction, and sit for long, long periods in complete darkness. But it’s also possible that this is quite brilliant, leaning on the likes of Caryl Churchill, Martin Crimp and other masters of elliptical language.

Set in some kind of dark future, a girl in school uniform walks into a bar (cf the play’s title) to find out where her best friend is. The friend has disappeared - which happens unsettlingly frequently in this world - and the gruff bar owner claims not to know anything about the disappearance.

But we’re not given anything else: none of the rules of this world, very little context. Just dialogue and some gorgeously stylish transitions involving flashing lights and sudden blackouts.

Raczka and Pidsley - whose reputations were forged working with the exciting young company Barrel Organ - set up intense contrasts: between these women, one immaculate in a parody of jolly-hockey-sticks school uniform, the other in black mesh shirt with a stack of messy black hair, embodiments of innocence and not; between darkness and light, as a huge chunk of the play happens in utter darkness. Bryony Davies as the bolshy, sarcastic barwoman clashes with the naivety and earnestness of Laura Woodward as the schoolgirl.

There are lots of prickling little moments that seem to want to remind the audience of the fiction of the play, to draw attention to its artificiality. During the blackout the women start spinning off into vengeful role-play fantasies imagining what they would do to the man that took their friend, and the through-line of their burgeoning friendship is taut and then slack, as their minds meet or they get stuck in misunderstandings. It’s expertly balanced and, as baffling as the play is at first, it’s ultimately easy to see how completely this play is doing its own thing, how fully and fantastically it’s committing to its characters and world.
Written by
Tim Bano


£12.50, £10.50 concs
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