The Shape of a Girl is a one-woman show supported by a six-person chorus that explores the harsh, unexpected, dark side of high school hierarchies and one girl’s grief as she realizes being a bystander is sometimes as bad as being a perpetrator.
Should you see it?
In The Shape of A Girl, teenager Braidie skips school for reasons that become obvious as the plot unfolds. Instead of hanging out at the mall like most kids, Braidie spends her day imagining what she’d say to her older brother who has now moved away.
Her stories are less about high school gossip and more about the disturbing state of her new reality as she reminisces about her childhood and wonders how her group of friends came to become a gang of bullies. These memories are juxtaposed with Braidie’s perspective on a murder case involving youth, which the audience may recognize as being loosely based on Reena Virk’s tragic tale.
Lead actress Megan Carty received a Spirit of the Capital Youth Award for producing and starring in The Shape of a Girl last winter, and she truly earned that accolade. Joined by a chorus of six girls representing at times young bullies and at times their helpless victims, Carty takes us on a journey from Braidie’s pony loving pre-school days (which, by the way, are adorable) to the sensitive, deep, poetic young woman she is today.
This is a show not only about the hugely important issue of youth bullying but it is also a coming of age story for Braidie who is ultimately faced with a difficult decision that requires courage, compassion, and maturity to make. The ending was shocking and beautiful, a perfect denouement to an already captivating and stirring production.
I was particularly impressed by the creative, full use of the stage. The Avalon Theatre has always struck me as an especially magical place to play and I’m so pleased that director Paul Griffin took full advantage of its unique structure in this show.
For all its strengths, however, this show is not without its flaws. The use of a chorus to emphasize important pieces of text, such as a mother’s worry or a victim’s screams, is effective but sometimes the actress’ speech wasn’t synchronized so words were lost.
Another problem I had with this show was its volume. The content contains strong emotional scenes that need to contain some power, but in a small venue I felt as though shouts could be toned down. This was particularly true when the chorus reached the irritatingly screechy upper-register only teenage girls seem to be capable of. While that sound was spot on as far as realism, it grated on my ears a little.
It may have been appropriate, at times, to diversify: for example, the scene showing the girls taunting their victim with whispers was one of the most effective and eerie in the whole show, for me. That being said, The Shape of a Girl is overall a very moving and well done show.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Did The Shape of a Girl bring new insight into the horrors of teenage bullying, or was it just a melodramatic series of confusion from a angst-ridden girl? How do you think this show resonates in the age of cyber-bullying? Join the discussion in the comments below!