Girls & Boys: Sydney Festival 2023

Rebecca Varidel
8th Jan 2023

Girls & Boys as part of Sydney Festival 2023 at the Seymour Centre opens in high comedy. In her solo performance, human dynamo Justine Clarke relates the airport scene where she meets her future husband, along with the young adult life of her 20 something years that went before.

Justine Clarke's use of the stage is astounding. Hand gestures, facial expressions, and her gaze captivate. Each of us feels like she is talking to us. She makes a deep connection. Initially her timing parallels that of penultimate stand-up comedy. It's razor sharp. Belly laughs abound. Then as the story unfolds there are less laughs.

My daughter is a Libran, the astrological sign of balance. She's mostly balanced until she isn't. And this is what happens in this comedy / drama as her life progresses, gently at first, until it's no longer gentle.

From the three distinct sections of single life, married life and divorce shown through Girls & Boys, the middle section seemed at times slow. Or perhaps that was a deliberate portrayal of day-to-day family hum drum. Against this backdrop, the same gesticulation seemed a little forced and a little overbaked.

After the performance my companion to Girls & Boys, and an actor herself told me she had felt uncomfortable. Personally, I was beyond uncomfortable, I suffered such emotional and physical pain to the extent that I had to draw on every healing technique of my mind body and soul to stay in my seat and not walk out. The empathy created such hurt in my heart. The third section was unfathomably difficult to take.

Girls & Boys is written by award-winning British playwright Dennis Kelly (Osama the Hero, Matilda the Musical) and directed by Mitchell Butel. This male foundation is perplexing given the subject matter.

This monologue relays important messages, one view of humanity and society and male 'power' - and the majority of the audience appreciated it and the portrayal by Justine Clarke with a standing ovation.

Girls & Boys is playing at the Seymour Centre until 15 January 2023.