Saturday, September 30

School Girls or The African Mean Girls – Lyric Theatre Hammersmith

This show wows with sharp witted remarks and a hilarity that surpasses cultural barriers.

The London premiere of Jocelyn Bioh’s 2017 comedy is a commentary of female friendship and feeling of isolations in school, dealing with bullies and hierarchy is set against the backdrop of Aburi Girls Boarding School in 1986 Ghana. Paulina is the queen bee, the most popular girl in school who picks girls up out of obscurity and makes them feel special. That is until her status starts to be questioned upon the arrival of new transfer student Ericka.

The main group of girls attend the best Girls school in Ghana and are awaiting the arrival of a recruiter for the Miss Ghana pageant. Paulina (Tara Tijani) is the group leader and believes she is the only choice for the pageant but Ericka’s (Anna Shaffer) arrival and her light skin, threaten Paulina’s position as not only the queen bee but her chance to be Miss Ghana. Tara Tijani was a standout as she showcases her stabbing wit as a mean girl but also explores her insecurity and vulnerability.

The cousins Gifty (Francesca Amewudah-Rivers) and Mercy (Bola Akeju) worked perfectly as highlighted comedic relief in a laugh out loud show. Whenever the audience was bellowing with laughs one of these two were the culprits. They were also great at portraying followers in this story, girls that will go with the flow and follow whichever person has the most power and status. The sweet Nana (Jadesola Odunjo) and responsible Ama (Heather Agyepong) round out the friend group.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

Monique Touko’s direction was lovely, the physical acting from all the performers was a delight specifically Bolu Akeju as Mercy, another highlight was the dance breaks utilised to make scene changes less awkward due to the cast being smaller. Touko also highlights the chemistry between the girls, the different dynamics work so well, and they are believable as a friend group.

The climax of the play exposes all the secrets of the characters’ secrets and deals with them in a way that feels realistic. However, I think the impact of some of the secrets revealed could have been explored more. After the climax, the show ends quite quickly.

All in all, this story was an exceptional commentary on race, colourism, friendship and how insecurity can poison relationships. There is so much joy and exuberance that bursts from this show, I believe it is something everyone will enjoy.

School Girls or The African Mean Girls is playing at Lyric Theatre Hammersmith until July 15th. Tickets are available here:

Reviewer: Zara Odetunde

Reviewed: 14th June 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.