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A Girl Called Owl
Published on Saturday, 18 May 2013
5

Promotional Image

5 stars

The Nightingale (venue website)
Theatre
11 May, 3:00pm-4:00pm, 5:00pm-6:00pm; 12 May, 3:00pm-4:00pm; 15-17 May, 7:15pm-8:15pm; 18 May, 3:00pm-4:00pm, 5:00pm-6:00pm, 7:15pm-8:15pm; 19 May, 3:00pm-4:00pm, 7:15pm-8:15pm; 20 May, 7:15pm-8:15pm, 9:00pm-10:00pm
Reviewed by Darren Taffinder

 Warning: Contains strong language.
 Parental Guidance. Under-17's must be accompanied by an adult.

Some shows are easy to fall in love with; this is one of them. A Girl Called Owl is a sweet, poignant coming-of-age story, set in rural South Africa. Ten-year-old Olive has just moved from the big city with her widowed policeman dad. Next door lives Kay, a girl with wild blonde hair and a scar on her forehead. They quickly become best friends, and Kay almost immediately nicknames Olive “Owl”. The first half of the show is about their budding friendship, and the second half fast-forwards six years to their mid-teens.

Some shows are easy to fall in love with; this is one of them. A Girl Called Owl is a sweet, poignant coming-of-age story, set in rural South Africa. Ten-year-old Olive has just moved from the big city with her widowed policeman dad. Next door lives Kay, a girl with wild blonde hair and a scar on her forehead. They quickly become best friends, and Kay almost immediately nicknames Olive “Owl”. The first half of the show is about their budding friendship, and the second half fast-forwards six years to their mid-teens.

As a parent, you worry about your child falling in with the wrong crowd and being led astray. Kay is the sort of friend who would worry you most. At one point she’s congratulated by her school’s Head Teacher for reaching her 365th office visit. Owl is bookish and quiet – almost the complete opposite of the reckless Kay – but you never doubt their friendship.

It is a wonderfully-written and directed show, but what truly makes it stand out is the physicality of Briony Horwitz’s performance. She completely captures what it’s like to be ten and sixteen. The only set is an armchair, which she moves around and flips over to be a tree or a school chair. One moment that captures the essence of her performance comes early into the second half, when the teenage Owl meets her old teacher in the grocery store. The way Horwitz flips between Owl’s post-adolescent height and the teacher’s stooped shoulders is just brilliant.

The only downside was the end. At fifty-five minutes it was a little too short, truncated even. It took me a bit by surprise, as though the play had just run out of time rather than coming to a close. I wanted to know what happened next. It almost felt like writer Jon Keevy didn’t know quite know how to end it.

Or maybe he couldn’t quite bring himself to do a scene with an older Kay and Owl. Owl is a girl with a future, Kay’s future is a little more uncertain. This show is a heartbreaker because you can fill in the blanks, and the blanks aren’t good.

This is a beautiful story about daughters and their fathers, absent mothers and escape. It’s about growing up in the suburbs and the strangeness of being a teenager. In some ways we are all a little bit like a girl named Owl.

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