Edinburgh’s much loved, dark-comedy theatre collective, The Counterminers is back on stage with their fourth Fringe production, Cheeky Girls. A nimble ode to all the splendid disarray and fantasy of youth, Cheeky Girls wonderfully captures how the hazy reality of family and life dynamics intercepts with the perceived invincibility of being young, carefree, and just a little bit cheeky. Written and Co-Directed by Florence Carr-Jones, and brought to life by an unstoppable cast and production team, the play unfurls with experimental theatrical twists, which bring to life, with a surreal intensity, the thrills and disenchantments of being young.
Based on university life in Edinburgh, and with several highly relatable punchlines to prove it, Cheeky Girls follows three days in the life of its protagonist Freddi (played by Emer Williams) and her two best friends, Molly and Flick (Minna Gillett and Georgia Gabrielides respectively), as they navigate a heady maze of club-nights, Jesus-esque tutors, Tinder dates and tutorials.
Beginning with a humorous monologue from the morning-after-the-night-before, Williams brings to life the determinedly optimistically, if not increasingly ruffled, character of Freddi. Self-assured at the surface, but overwhelmed beneath, Freddi is an incredibly well-crafted character, who swiftly charms the audience with humorous, sharply delivered asides. At her side, Gabrielides brings a loveable charm to the character of Flick, who has both a bemusing side hustle in dog-themed knitting and a surprising success in age-related bar games. The more serious, notably cool, of the three, Molly, brings a collected wit and elegance to the group, which is playfully present in Gillett’s swooshing mannerisms.
Collectively, through their energetic late-night dances, to the surrealist walks through the meadows, the three realistically capture the love, silliness, and solidarity of female friendships.
The strength of the script writing is such that, littered among the deadly realistic portrayals of tutorials and first dates, there is room for a surreal, experimental tilt to the play. For instance, the repeated morning music which marks out the play’s different sections (a nice touch by sound designer Martha Barrow) is followed by a fun late antiquity twist in the breakfasts shared by Freddi and Flick. Equally, whilst comparing her history teacher (Huw Turnball) to Jesus, Turnball morphs into an energetic interpretation of Jesus as a Tinder match, which adds a fun energy to the play’s format. Another notable performance, Leonardo Shaw brings to life a whole host of male characters throughout the play – from a host of Tinder potentials to the Tinder match – in impressive succession.
The only minor frustration was with the audience positioning on the night. Whilst clearly considerable and well-thought-out movement opened up the stage to the audience sitting along the side of the stage, the reliance on the asides for many of the punchlines meant that a few of the laughs were lost depending on where you were sat. That said, there were certainly plenty of laughs to go around, so perhaps it’s greedy to have wanted them all.
By the end, the immersive pacing of the performance, delivered incredibly impressive character development for a 50-minute performance, and it’s certainly a show that will make you feel joy whilst packing a realistic punch about the overwhelming realities of being young, and cheeky.
Image courtesy of Cara Fidelo.