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Jess Morrissey

Review: CLEAN SLATE at the Courtyard Theatre

Clean Slate Why is it a rarity to see real female relationships being depicted on stage? Clean Slate ​proves that it can be done and it is a very welcome breath of fresh air.

This play, translated from the original French-Canadian production 'Table Rase', tells the story of six school friends who are on a weekend away in a cabin by the lake. It seems to ​be a bog standard 'girlie weekend' filled with booze and banter but, as the evening unfolds, it dawns on the audience that there is far more to this particular night.

The play was written by playwright Catherine Chabot following a devising process with six actresses in Montreal. The piece, first performed in 2015, was inspired by stories they dared to share and - believe me - some of these revelations are indeed daring. In the translation by Trip & Guts' co-founders, Vanessa Labrie and Kathleen Glynn, elements have been changed so that a British audience can relate but otherwise the text has stayed true to the original. This highlights the relatability of the highs and lows of friendships across borders and the text seems so natural you might​ forget it was ever scripted.

This play epitomises excellent ensemble work and director Deborah Kearne is deserving of high praise. Set in the round, it creates a fly on the wall experience for the audience who witness a group of women in their late twenties discuss​ing​ a plethora of subjects around a booze-filled table; from school day nostalgia to sex and from the end of the world to a very interesting theory of 'yin' and 'yang'. There are arguments, debates, confessions and home truths galore: truly hilarious comments are interwoven with heated and heart-breaking moments. Chabot has created believable, complex characters and relationships that are exciting to watch.

The play is not flawless, however. There are discussions that sometimes go on for slightly too long. The subject matter, which is often sexual, is undoubtedly 'Marmite' - you either love it or you hate it – but if you love it you will really love it.

The cast is diverse with a range of ethnicities and accents in the mix. The question of how these girls all grew up together in the same town may arise but this reviewer celebrates the diversity that is not seen enough on stage and these actresses were all clearly cast on the merit of their talent. Their bonds are genuine and detailed: it is impossible to single out any performer as all were so strong and each character well-defined with their own personalities and issues shining through in writing, direction and performance. No stereotypes here, just real women.

This is a very exciting production that makes you laugh, cry, think and relate. A unique take on female friendship for the stage, but an honest portrayal. More theatre like this please!

Clean Slate is being performed by Trip & Guts Theatre at The Courtyard Theatre June 20th - 24th, 28th,29th and July 9th - 13th 2017. For more information visit their website or follow them on Twitter @tripandguts

Photo credit: Lidia Crisafulli