Reviewed – 15th February 2019
“She has brilliant comic timing, delivering throwaway lines with deadpan naivety”
The lives of teenage girls are prime material for writers. But, try as they might, thirty-nine-year-old Michael and fifty-year-old Carol can’t quite capture what it really means to be a teenager in the 21st century. Unlike most, writer/performer Emma Pritchard has an innate understanding of how young women think and feel. With its blend of empathy, urgency, and humour, her play Armour captures their complexity perfectly.
Fourteen-year-old Susie has been abandoned. First it was her dad, who left and took the freezer with him. Then it was her sister, Jess, who moved in with her weird boyfriend. Finally, it was her sense of security. She’s the new girl in a Catholic school where everyone seems superficial; though shy, she is desperate to impress and will go to any lengths to do so. But Susie’s a strong girl, and she copes pretty well – until disaster strikes. Her mum gets a perm.
Pritchard has created a remarkably authentic teenage voice. Susie is intelligent and, at times, poetic, but never pretentious. She thinks of her sister, not while staring wistfully at the stars, but while waiting for her tea to cool down. Attention from a boy leaves her ‘glowing inside like a microwave’. Pritchard is not blinded by the need to impress with clever writing; she is committed to telling this story as honestly as possible. Ironically, this makes the play cleverer and more insightful than it could have hoped to have been otherwise.
As a performer, she illuminates the many sides of Susie’s personality with equal care and attention. She has brilliant comic timing, delivering throwaway lines with deadpan naivety. As the story develops, this same naivety is used to evoke sympathy for Susie as she falls deeper into the trap of her own lies. Pritchard eschews frantic stage pacing and broad gestures, resulting in a consistently controlled and believable performance. Many scenes take place on a yellow changing room bench, her school bag and hockey gear resting against it. It serves as a reminder that this is the story of an innocent young woman who, despite her abundant strength, should not have to use it.
Armour is a play that has been brought to life with great care and attention. Its wit and honesty make it both a highly watchable piece of theatre and a moving portrait of teenage life in all its tragicomedy.
Reviewed by Harriet Corke
Part of VAULT Festival 2019