TWO GIRLS ONE SHOP
BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
23/02/2017 - 28/02/2017
12/03/2017 - 15/03/2017
NZ Fringe Festival 2017 [reviewing supported by WCC]
Sophia is young, dumb and full of gum. She keeps swallowing it.
So is Simone. Only she spits.
They both love cute boys and fashion and um, puppies? Or, whatever. They both work in the same retail clothing store.
They also hate each other. Can two girls fit in one shop, or will their cup runneth over?
Multi-Award winning writer/director Dan Bain presents this new piece of comedy theatre from MDMA featuring Millie Hanford and Maddie Harris from The Court Theatre Youth Company.
BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome – 1 Kent Terrace, Mount Victoria, Wellington
Feb 23-24, 26-28 2017
DUNEDIN FRINGE 2017
Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart St, Dunedin
Sun 12 Mar – Wed 15 Mar 2016
Price $14.00 – $18.00
Theatre , Comedy ,
High energy rendering of a toxic female friendship
Review by Alison Embleton 13th Mar 2017
On the surface, Two Girls One Shop is vapid, one-dimensional and lacking any compelling plot. Unfortunately, there is little below that surface to counterbalance this.
Two Girls One Shop stars writers/performers Millie Hanford and Maddie Harris, as Simone and Sophie respectively: two employees of a Glassons clothing store in Christchurch. They developed this show along with director/designer Dan Bain.
Simone is an established employee and has her eyes on a rarefied opportunity to become a junior designer for the company. Sophie, new to the store (and to Christchurch) quickly becomes ensconced in a relationship with Jai, after meeting at a party.
There is no real substance to those plot lines other than Sophie methodically tearing the one realistic dream that Simone has away from her, not due to her own work ethic but thanks to manipulation and theft. And Simone in turn goes behind Sophie’s back and undermines her relationship by sexually pursuing Jai herself.
Seemingly, the joke is that both women are too stupid to realise that the other is blatantly doing these things and openly talking about the process. Or something.
I agree with an earlier review that stated this show could possibly work well as a series of short sketches. In shorter form, the dynamics of character development/ plot progression can sometimes be open-ended or dismissed, as they are in this performance. However in an hour long show, the characters and their motivations are too hollow and selfish for you to be able to empathise or identify with them on any level and everything ultimately boils everything down to a toxic and dismal rendering of female friendship.
The set up early on in the script seems to be that Sharon (the omniscient manager, voiced by director Dan Bain) will be a force to rise up against that unites these two women, and will give them the impetus to move past their differences, even if they do continue to needle and spar with each other. But this is not the case, and it seems like a missed opportunity to add a little heart and compassion to the characters.
Usually seeing actors clearly enjoying themselves during a show is a wonderful thing; it reinforces their enthusiasm and you can’t help but find it endearing. Unfortunately in this case, their clear enjoyment leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It reinforces for me that not only the characters, but the actors, believe that it’s okay to trash people who are different, or more importantly people who are lower than themselves.
Now I understand that it’s supposed to be satire. That it’s supposed to be tongue in cheek. I understand that we’re supposed to laugh at these women because they’re ill-educated, and have ignorant opinions about the world that are straight-up disgusting. I understand that the ‘joke’ is that it’s preposterous that people would treat each other in such vicious and relentlessly cruel ways. And that we’re supposed to laugh because we aren’t those people.
But somebody is. And using classist mockery as a vehicle for further bigotry is tasteless and crude. Satire isn’t a free-for-all where you can do and say anything offensive and top it off with the cap of “it’s a joke, don’t be so uptight”. For that to work you need to provide the framework for that satire to exist within, so the audience can empathise and understand.
When you are stuck with these characters for an hour, the writing comes across as thoughtless and cruel. Even where moments of recognition are built in, such as one character calling out another for their racist/ sexist/ homophobic comments, they are immediately undermined by one or both characters saying another thoughtless and bigoted thing. You cannot make the incestuous sexual assault of a character a punchline, have both characters dismiss it as if it is wholly unimportant and then never return to it. That’s not humour. That’s a sure fire way to lose the respect of your audience.
These three young creatives (Hanford, Harris and Bain) are talented; they wouldn’t be enjoying the success they are now without genuine skill and passion for their craft. The fact that the driving force of Two Girls One Shop is the duo of Hanford and Harris who are young and gifted women, is something that fills me with enthusiasm and a desire to support them. I sat in the front row, I cheered when they first came on stage. I was genuinely excited to see what they were trying to achieve with this show. But I am left confused and angry. Unable to wrap my mind around what message they are wanting to leave their audiences with.
The culmination of all of Simone and Sophie’s taunts, mind games and active destruction of each other is a physical confrontation, which has been choreographed well, and the actors pull it off with gusto. The set is great. Simple but effective, and utilised well during said physical confrontation. Both actors are strong performers, both of whom I would like to see on stage again in the future. Hanford and Harris are definitely gifted physical comedians, and some of the sight-gags are genuinely amusing.
The issues with this show (and others like it) are very complex, and I’m not trying to say that all performances should be uplifting and about people being good to each other and making the world a better place filled with harmony and rainbows. But we need to stop behaving as though people destroying other people is inherently funny. We need to stop portraying female relationships as intrinsically competitive and venomous. Neither of these women do a single thing to help the other, to show kindness, compassion- anything other than outright contempt and determination to ruin the other. It’s exhausting.
But please, go and see Two Girls One Shop. Make a judgement of it for yourselves. Discuss all of these issues. Lots of audience members laughed throughout the performance, clearly enjoying themselves. It’s a high energy piece of theatre…and it sure as hell isn’t boring.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Good enough to go to the next level
Review by John Smythe 24th Feb 2017
This show would work a treat as a recurring series of sketches in a TV (or online) comedy sketch show. As an hour-long show, however, it is more shallow than it needs to be – which I say with a clear understanding that Two Girls One Shop is totally about apparently shallow people.
Writer/performers Millie Hanford and Maddie Harris, from The Court Youth Company, revel in their comedic creations. In a Christchurch Glassons store, the incumbent Simone (Millie) and newcomer Sophie (Maddie) work together (although both words may be overstating it) under the invisible eye of Sharon – voiced over, I assume, by the director Dan Bain.
A series of scenes tracks the wobbly course of their inherently bitchy relationship, revealed through constant chatter and banter as they fold and pile an endless stream of fashion tops. Snippets of their backstories emerge and the building plotlines involve Simone’s aspirations to win an opportunity as a trainee fashion designer and Sophie’s relationship with a guy called Jai.
Simone, who claims the higher status, blithely mispronounces words and mangles concepts to amusing effect. Equally entertainingly, Sophie tries to take the moral high-ground with her health and fitness fads and concern for the planet. Their exchanges capture the speech patterns of the age and the insincere tropes of friendships-of-convenience, as an ever-present thread of toxic self-interest underlies all and erupts in none-too-subtle jibes.
What’s missing is the deeply felt emotions of adolescence on the cusp of adulthood and the pathos they could engender. While their survival behaviours are accurately depicted, we don’t gain insights into why they do as they do; what vulnerabilities they are trying to protect.
Discovering such dimensions could only enhance the comedy value – especially when the way the plot plays out is fairly predictable. Winning our empathy by letting us see through their defences and recognise ourselves would be a big plus. (Are we not all shallow, deep down?)
That said, the opening night audience does gasp in shock at some of the more outrageous jibes and laughs a lot at (note: at) their try-hard naiveté. The well-conceived physicality of the finale could be spectacular with more practice.
Dan Bain’s setting and lighting designs are ingeniously simple and his sound punctuations (he operates, too) help to sustain his good directorial rhythm and pace. There’s lots of potential in Two Girls One Shop and their creators who, I suspect, are entirely capable of taking it to the next level. Meanwhile they deserve your support.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
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Alison Embleton March 14th, 2017
I respect your rebuttal, and I definitely do not wish to tar and feather this show, hence my encouragement for others to see it and make up their own minds. However, as you say the comedic technique is a “pull back and reveal” but on the night I saw this show, the comment did not play out as you have illustrated it was intended to. This meant that as an audience member I found it to be highly offensive and felt that it trivialised a very serious and insidious issue. I made a point of canvassing other audience members after the show (a mix of genders and age groups in case I was perhaps being overly-sensitive) and each person I spoke with took issue with this particular comment, a couple even brought it up unprompted by me during conversation. So, I took this as affirmation that however it was intended, in that particular performance the subtleties of the comedic timing were lost. At the end of the day, no matter how carefully you craft a comedic beat, if the delivery doesn’t hit the right notes then it doesn’t work. And when you’re using such high-stakes material the responsibility and the potnetial for fall out is that much greater.
dan bain March 13th, 2017
Hi thanks for this very long review.
While I make it a general point not to respond to blogs I'd just like to clarify a point as you accuse the show of trivialising sexual assault And then never bringing it up again. This is 100% incorrect and we vehemently refute this implication
The line you are referring to is 'when I've done it on accident to my uncle'. We of course as an audience are horrified by this and then it is almost immediately revealed that she is of course referring to accidentally punching him in the balls. This is a comedic technique called a pull back and reveal where one reality - that we have assumed through context - is then revealed to not be the reality at all.