Camden Fringe 2012
GirlBand charts the story of a 90’s pop band who find their way back into the spotlight today. It reflects the sign of our times where we are seeing many similar bands regularly exploiting these opportunities, most notably The Spice Girls and Steps. The clever thing about this production is that this is character comedy at its best. The publicity that it is about a GirlBand attracts the audience but then Those 3 Girls turn it on its head and it ends up being more about the fans than the band. A clever twist that keeps the content interesting but somewhat disappointing somehow as the band is not really revealed.
The three women play die hard fans who are part of the fan club “Gunt”, GirlBand United Now and Then. Jenny (Carly Sheppard) is the softly-spoken founder of the club, Ceri (Lucy Barnett) from South Wales, a local celebrity courtesy of her husband a professional trampolinist and Debra (Susannah Adele) a professional autograph hunter with a son and an imaginary friend/boyfriend called Barry. The women have never actually met and as the band have reformed 15 years later it seems as good a time as any. For those who lived in the UK in the 90’s this is a whirlwind back in time and it is hilarious how these girls manage to cram in so many pop culture references in an hour. This sort of show is appealing to anyone who watched Steps: The Reunion Tour on TV and thought it was funny.
Those 3 Girls have this theme covered extensively and it is nice to see them exploring less of the actual band themselves but rather the perspectives of others such as the the fan characters, band management and family members. Disappointingly though this piece misses a trick not advertising this clearly in their publicity. It means an audience expects one thing and really gets something else entirely. There are quite a number of missed opportunities in GirlBand. Given the popularity of bands coming back into the public eye it would have been nice to see something out of the box. The introduction of crazy fans isn’t quite enough. There were a lot of references to former 90’s celebrities, some of whom were exceptionally obscure. These are funny if you know who they are but many are specifically relevant to the time and if you didn’t live here or immerse yourself in pop culture this would go straight over your head. This could alienate some of your audience, while the rest fall about laughing so it is a double edged sword.
The simple set with a few cleverly placed props, majorly accentuated by the girls’ characters is fitting and they keep the audience engaged the entire time. Each actor has a character that they excel at and the others are strong but luckily in this case the three girls’ strongest characters are the fans who are central to the piece and conveniently regularly get forgotten or overlooked. Fans are always seen as a bit of an added extra, but not in this show. It ended up being a bit like watching a tennis game with the frequent switches of character and the constant moving around the stage to portray the differences. It felt a little haranguing and I wanted a little stillness at points. There is no doubt that this trio are all very talented. With some re direction and a little sprucing this could be a great tour show. Entertaining, non challenging and an enjoyable evening.