What does it mean to be female today? It is getting easier or harder? These loaded and poignant questions prompted the research that led to Broken Windows. Caitlin Ince has travelled the length and breath of the country talking to young teenaged girls, and the result is this entertaining show – part musical, part interview.
Ince, who plays the parts of all the five girls featured, is a good storyteller. And along with Matthew White's live piano accompaniment, she has also converted some of the dialogues into musical scores. The result is an entertaining mix of irony and frivolity, of humour and seriousness.
The girls she has interviewed range from the ages of 14 to 18, but they all echo the same feelings, albeit in subtly different garb. They are in different classes at school, some are more academic than the others, and yet a pattern begins to emerge: trying to please everyone around them, wearing make-up at an early age, trying to emulate the most 'popular' girls, and trying to find their identities and meaning without a world of suitable role models. And above all, they project the fear that they won't be accepted; 'Don't make me out to be a psycho or anything,' one of the more confident girls tells Caitlin as a parting shot.
Apart from the great acting and equally convincing singing, the set itself is quite impressive. Strewn with newspapers, books, shoes, clothes, makeup, a suitcase, and odds and ends, it encompasses everything that Ince uses in her storytelling as well as bringing out the world and the surroundings that teenagers inhabit in today's times. The live music adds a lot to the narrative and to the ability of the central character to capture the audience's attention.
But the very thing that is best about this show also holds it back. The sung dialogues are often repeated, which slows down the pace of the narrative. Also, as someone not from the UK, I would have appreciated references to peoples' childhood years in terms of age rather than in terms of grade; I am not familiar with what year 6 or year 4 is, and my editor tells me that these English terms are confusing even in Scotland. A small, considerate change here could make the show far more inclusive.
In spite of that, Ince puts on a great show. Combined with the quality of her research and dialogues from actual young people, it makes for an interesting exploration into modern teenage life. And for a post-lunch performance, this was the perfect way to end my Fringe of 2015 on a high.