Written by Sarah Richardson
Directed by Ciara Elizabeth Smyth
Perplexing though it may be, sex is still a taboo subject for many people. People with ‘cringing’ attitudes towards women’s autonomy, exploration and understanding of their bodies through masturbation, and physical interactions with others. GirlPlay undresses the ideas of keeping sex and love in the bedroom, moving towards open discussions surrounding relationships, families, grief and both the magnificent highs and embarrassing lows of sex.
While protagonist Lucy has never really had much experience, she makes up for it with rampant curiosity both for romance and physical connection. Sexual exploration is a healthy part of her life, initially tying it into her unfolding identity – it blossoms into an explosion of euphoric exploration. GirlPlay transitions from the physical to the emotional and mental complexities principally through spoken word in this audio drama. Sarah Richardson’s poetic script excels in getting down and dirty – so when you’re done de-steaming the windows, take a moment to appreciate the use of language.
A playful production, we move from recitation to an interaction of sorts between three speakers: Martha Dunlea, Rachel O’Connell and Richardson themselves. Together they form the inner workings of Lucy’s mind. Usually independent, the trio interact on occasions where Lucy battles with herself in confusion or frustrations regarding potential suitors, curiosities and sexual disappointments, conversing in an almost lyrical round, finishing sentences or interrupting one another.
Richardson’s poet language accentuates the production, allowing for a rhythmic flow serving to embolden points of drama or contention within the production. It also significantly heightens the emotional stakes in the audio drama. Despite a lack of visual connection with audiences, GirlPlay has no issues forging a sense of character within Lucy. A significant mark of talent for director Ciara Elizabeth Smyth who draws the most from the cast as each brings their quirks and clarity to the role of Lucy.
As an audio drama, sound design is as significant as casting and writing. Though used throughout, Sam Hardiman’s audio never overshadows the deft skill of the spoken word, serving to reinforce Lucy’s life transitions. Both the audio design and score play a key part in the production’s pivotal moments of ecstasy and defeat, where Lucy reaches her emotional peaks or mental exhaustion brought on through gratification or endurance.
GirlPlay plays on the insecurities of men who find a partner who, shockingly, knows their body better than he might. It takes jabs at the porn industry’s distortion of expectation and encourages those who haven’t already to delve into what makes them tick, to familiarise themselves with a healthy curiosity about their sexuality, their bodies and their emotions.
GirlPlay may be produced by women and star women, but crucially it is for everyone. It is the kind of production you implore people to observe so that they can perhaps grasp a sense of their identity and encourage others to aid their friends and partners in discovering it for themselves.
GirlPlay is available to view until 31 January here
Review published for The Wee Review