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Not hilarious and not a romp.
on 18 April 2012
I have just been to see a performance of Gordon Steel's "Like A Virgin" at my local arts theatre and, credit where credit is due, there are a couple of half decent monologues that teenage actresses might enjoy getting their emotions and teeth into. However the play is nothing like "An hilarious romp through the bubble gum years of teenage life" as my programme promised. "Pedestrian teenage angst" would be a more accurate strap-line.
The first thirty minutes of the play were fairly inoffensive, if a bit tedious and over populated with screamy bitchiness and sighing pauses, although the sex positions scene felt unnecessary. However the confrmation of just how bad the play is comes when Angela, our heroine, goes for her latest, over long, dramatic pause and says to her semi-alcoholic and depression suffering mother, Viv, "I've got terminal leukemia." During the even longer pause following that announcement I felt my head sink into my hands in despair. My despair turned into a brief mania as I caught myself giggling during Angela's death throes in the dragged out ending. For this I can only apologise to the actresses who were struggling to make something of this terrible play.
I thought that The Sentimental Teenage Angst Cancer Play genre had been put down after the disaster was "Philidelphia." To discover that this play was written in 2005 was real shock. Not only is the main plot predictable and uninspiring, the play is limited by its naturalism and the popular culture references have dated extremely quickly.
If I haven't read them already I usually buy copies of plays that I have seen and keep them as a resource for my students. I will be breaking that habit in the case of Like A Virgin. There are so many very good plays written with GCSE age students in mind that not only raise important issues but also require imaginative use of drama forms ("Ostrich Boys" being my current favourite). Buying "Like A Virgin" would feel like such a waste of money and a step backwards in theatre development.
One fellow audience member said on the way out "Well it wouldn't have been quite so bad if I'd liked Madonna." Madonna's songs in the play were probably the best bits.