Tuesday 18 June 2019

Power play exploring the lives of teenage girls

Members of Bare Cheek Theatre Company who presented ‘Rate Me’ in Wexford Arts Centre in Association with County Wexford Youth Theatre.
Members of Bare Cheek Theatre Company who presented ‘Rate Me’ in Wexford Arts Centre in Association with County Wexford Youth Theatre.

Maria Pepper

Twenty young Wexford women presented a powerful new play about the lives of teenage girls in a sellout run at Wexford Arts Centre.

'Rate Me', written by Marnie McCleane-Fay and produced by Bare Cheek Theatre Company, was written against the backdrop of the #me too campaign and current global issues of sexual misconduct against women, and patriarchal power and its abuses.

The play, which ran for three nights in the Arts Centre, carries in it the thoughts of 20 young Wexford women aged between 13 and 18, who through a series of workshops explored what it is to grow up in a world where they are considered 'either frigid or a slut'.

Writer Marnie McCleane-Fay harnessed their thoughts, and expressed them in 'Rate Me' which follows the lives of four young women growing up in a small town in 21st century Ireland.

The play received support from the Arts Council 'Young Ensembles Award', and assistance from Wexford Arts Centre and Wexford County Council. Arts Centre Artistic Director Elizabeth Whyte chaired an after-show talk on the final night.

The following review of the play was kindly submitted by the author and journalist Jackie Hayden:

Although I've never been a 12-year-old girl, the power of the acting, the strength of the script by Marnie McCleane-Fay and the tautness of the production of Rate Me at the Wexford Arts Centre were all so honest and convincing that I feel I now have more of a handle as to what that world might be like.

In many ways it resembles a war zone, with kids at a most vulnerable age revolting against being in the firing line of abuse from parents, boy-friends, patriarchy, adults, the media, nonebrity culture, and the fashion and diet industries, but just as much from each other.

Noticeably, and quite bizarrely, teachers are exempt from comment, never mind a hint of blame, as the girls trounce their perceived abusers with screeds of anger, menacing chants and the realistic use of foul language.

The performances by the teenage cast of 20 were remarkably assured and convincing, but the play focused primarily on four girls maturing from 12 to 18 and beyond in the tangled world of post-Catholic modern Ireland.

They confront a bewildering array of issues, including lesbianism, girl-on-girl body-shaming, bullying, porn, self-harm, abortion, sexual assault, real and imagined sexual experiences, and that ugly pressure to conform in both body and mind.

'The production by Bare Cheek Theatre Company was so compelling that you dared not miss a word or a gesture, yet amid the anger and rage there was room for humour and many tender moments, as well as a sprinkling of thoughtful music and outbreaks of liberating, joyful dancing.

It struck me as a pity that the Wexford Arts Centre audience was almost totally female, as men need to see these issues played out from a young female perspective, even if they find some of the angles one-sidedly simplistic.

Either way, Rate Me is such a provocative work it should be staged in all boys' secondary schools. Sadly, it won't.

Wexford People

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