That Girl, Old Red Lion Theatre – Review

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L-R: Hatty Jones and Alex Reynolds

Often, when one is famous at a young age (in TV/films/music etc), there is a decision as an adult to put some distance between those earlier times. For those who have been in the limelight, there is always a choice: to generate perpetual interest in oneself or to let the memories of such times dissipate and move on. For Hatty Jones, who 20 years ago starred in a film, Madeleine, she’s chosen the latter route. However, others aren’t so keen to let her forget. Playing ‘herself’, That Girl (which is directed by Tim Cook) is a metaplay that chronicles Jones’ life post-Madeleine and by the same token life for young women in the 21st century.

It’s established early on that ‘Hatty’ works in advertising – a ‘parallel’ career that in its own way also deals with ‘glamour’, image and perception with the public at large. The difference of course is that in her present role, ‘Hatty’ lets the products take the limelight, not herself. However…

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The play’s opening scene in its understated way cleverly shows the sorts of conversations ‘Hatty’ puts up with, time and time again. Often ‘recognised’ by people she meets, but where exactly eluding them, Jones goes through the motions of fielding endless questions regarding schools, towns and mutual friends before she’s forced to talk about her “15 seconds of fame”. Of course once she’s made the revelation, people DO treat her differently and so the cycle continues.

Perhaps at a subconscious level, this is why she perfers spending time with lives with her small group of close friends, including her flatmate Polly (Alex Reynolds). Having known her since they were children, ‘Hatty’ knows Polly won’t be ‘weird’ around her. There is one thing, however, that she hasn’t counted on – Polly meeting new people and wanting to widen the established social circle. Of course this has nothing to do with Polly getting married…

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Most people who go through further and higher education meet new people as a natural consequence and get to ‘reinvent themselves’ each time. In the case of ‘Hatty’, there is a part of her that has one foot on the past, never been allowed to forget, yet never quite at ease in the present. In any case, regardless of relationship status, ‘pushing 30’ is around the time when ‘an adult’ is expected to have their own place. Still, ‘Hatty’ could stay with her sister for the time being. And maybe she should revisit Tinder again…

Jones’ play nails the bittersweet nature of the stages of adulthood and knowing what one wants, yet trying to accommodate others’ opinions. In the play, the other characters do what’s right for them, living life on their terms. And while they’re sociable and accommodating within reason, they stick with what they planned to do. In between the moments of mirth, That Girl faces up to the notion that like ‘Christopher Robin’ and ‘Pooh’, people naturally leave their childhood connections behind, as respective priorities and circumstances change.

© Michael Davis 2018

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That Girl runs at Old Red Lion Theatre until 15th September.

https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/that-girl.html

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