Audacious, honest and unapologetic; a must see for all educational workers, support workers, students, parents and young women - *****
12 young ladies aged between 13 and 21 are assembled on the stage in front of me; some look nervous, some like they are spoiling for a fight. They sit in two groups either side of a screen on which is looped a short film depicting snatches of people and places, hinting at some moments that are coming up. A repeated motif is heard against a background of electronic beats: "misrepresent". This word, used to great effect as the collective's title, Miss Represented, gives a bold introduction to how these young women feel about themselves.
As the lights dim and the first young woman takes to the stage we are treated to a beautiful rendition of an original song, with words to break your heart. The performance is punctuated throughout with songs that the girls have written themselves, filled with such raw emotion you can practically touch it. The electronic beats and backing are produced live by two of the collaborations mentors, situated behind the audience so they can smile out encouragingly over the sea of strange faces. Lyrics that talk of lies, struggles, family, strength all beautifully performed really hit their message home as only music can. Coupled with honest monologues and tasteful film footage this multi-arts performance really got home it's message: we are here, we are struggling, and we don't feel like you are helping.
Whilst the performances are not yet polished, the fact they fidget and smile at each other reminds us that we are watching real people with real stories having the courage to stand up and share, and as an audience you appreciate that they have taken the time to do so. Scripts in hand don't matter; the story being told faithfully does. Theatre has always been a place where the very nature of being human can be shared, and we often go hoping to experience something of that shared humanity. 'Can you see me now?' really forces you into that space where you can't help but connect, and unmercifully highlights the flaws with the support systems for young people in care and education.
Having worked with LAC (Looked After Children) and in secondary education for a number of years, I felt like this show was providing me with a side of the conversation I hadn't yet heard. It is heartbreaking to hear of social workers who come and go, teachers who don't have the time to pick apart what an outburst of behaviour is really saying, or police officers who want to assume the worst in you. In our privileged position of not having ever been in their shoes, and with the wisdom of experience, we can know that that these services really do want to help; but it is important to take the time to listen to the fears and frustrations of those who only feel let down by those around them. Symptomatic perhaps of a society that has too many boxes to tick and not enough people to run our most crucial services effectively, we are in danger of perpetuating generations of young women who also feel they are Miss Represented.
This work is audacious, honest and unapologetic; a must see for all educational workers, support workers, students, parents and young women