Rona Munro’s 1990’s tale of the Troubles, Bold Girls, returns home to where it was first performed by the now legendary 7:84 Scottish People’s Theatre (well, to Cumbernauld Theatre’s newest incarnation at Lanternhouse).
The guns, bombs, helicopters, and RUC, though ever-present, are merely a backdrop to the stories of these bold girls. Marie, Cassie and Nora gather in West Belfast in the run up to a girls’ night out at the local club. An enigmatic young woman appears (almost An Inspector Calls-like) on Marie’s doorstep. Her presence and subsequent revelations break the bonds of the women’s friendship forever.
There’s plenty of banter woven around the reminders of the violence just outside the door, but the reality below the surface manages to quickly rise to the top. The desperation just seeps out. Desperation at the complete inability to escape your circumstances, desperation that you should be thankful your man didn’t hit you, desperation at the inequality of the expectation that you should spoil your sons and reproach your daughters, desperation at maintaining the façade of the perfect widow.
The staging is simplistic, allowing the focus to be on the storytelling and there’s a chemistry between the actors that serves the story well. Stand out among the ensemble is Leigh Lothian’s finely nuanced portrayal of Cassie, a woman wracked with anger and anguish. The tiny details in her characterisation are a delight.
Munro’s piece largely holds up, but one can’t help feeling that it hasn’t entirely stood the test of time. The dialogue, to 2022 ears, isn’t as naturalistic as it could be, and the ending could be trimmed for greater impact. There’s also the problem that the plot’s greatest revelations are a little too clearly signposted that they lack impact.
A worthwhile revival of Munro’s play, enough to tempt you to visit her latest work James IV – Queen of the Fight, the fourth of her James Plays, which tours this autumn.
Runs until 1 October 2022 | Image: Greg MacVean