'In this way I shall preserve many things that would otherwise be lost in oblivion. I shall find daily employment for myself, which will save me from indolence and help to keep off the spleen, and I shall lay up a store of entertainment for my after life.'

For James Boswell posts please follow the labels on the right.

This blog mainly contains reviews from the Edinburgh Festivals from 2008 to 2010 which I wrote for the Edinburgh Festivals Magazine. These reviews cover everything from comedy to contemporary dance; children's theatre to Handel.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Girls of Slender Means Review

The Girls of Slender Means

Following the lives of a group of young women in the post-war era of austerity, Muriel Spark’s novel is set in a period of thrift, mending, making do and getting by. Contrasting the earthly pragmatism – even cynicism – of characters like Selina Redwood, with the pious distance of Joanna, a clergyman’s daughter, Spark depicted a Britain pregnant with the seeds of social and political change.

Written in 1963, the book also has hints of the oncoming tide of women’s social emancipation. Sex, anarchism as well as religion and attire are all points of discussion. Not simply slender on financial means, the girls also continue to express only slight ambition in their future lives. Most of them, despite their youthful vivacity and independence, are destined to be married off.

Judith Adams’ adaptation juxtaposes the competing characters of the novel, often through staging multiple conversations on stage. This can often be more distracting than revealing however. The deeply personal and spiritual Joanna also translates poorly onto stage, with Selina not surprisingly stealing much of the audience’s attention. The chronological flipping is also in danger of muddling the plot.

Nonetheless the zeitgeist of the period is acutely realised not only through music, sound and clothing, but also accent, mannerisms and human interaction. The occasional snippets of Churchill’s speeches also add to the overall impression.

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