THE SHAPE OF A GIRL by Joan MacLeod, directed by Patrick McDonald, with Jenny Young. Presented by Green Thumb and Tarragon in the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Runs to April 28, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $20-$25, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
think girls can't be nasty and inhumane? Upsetting recent headlines say otherwise, and theatre pieces like The Children's Hour and The Crucible portrayed such cruelty years ago. Joan MacLeod's The Shape Of A Girl looks at the pull of peer pressure and gang bullying by focusing on a 15-year-old who becomes aware that she tottered on the edge of a vortex of hate.
Braidie (Jenny Young) is a BC teen fighting with her mother and longing for the company of her older brother, who's left home because of similar parental arguments. Seeing TV reports of a murder similar to that of Reena Virk, the Victoria teen killed by her peers in 1997, brings to mind the way Braidie and her own gang, years before, dealt with a scapegoat classmate they dubbed "it."
MacLeod's simple, heartfelt writing packs a wallop as it deals with complex issues of self-trust and belief in what's right. She has a sure ear for the language of teens, blended here with a touch of poetry. It's an easy step from the comedy of home life -- sparked by "the voice of Mom" -- to the terrorism of high-school groupies, whose members feel their existence depends on the approval of friends.
Directed by Patrick McDonald, Young brings a strong presence to the script, even in her subtly communicated awareness of the awfulness of what she's done, which translates into a nervous shaking of her foot.
She doesn't have every aspect of the character under control -- the memories of the eight-year-old aren't as convincing as the creation of the 15-year-old narrator -- but you know when you see the tears on Young's cheeks at the end that she's travelled the same emotional journey as the audience.