Scenes with Girls: The new London play rejecting heteronormative narratives and expectations

Miriam Battye’s play Scenes with Girls focuses on two women in their twenties, whose conversations revolve around men and sex. However, while the opposite sex dominate the dialogue, the play is a powerful exploration of female friendship, and the rejection of heteronormative expectation.

Best friends Tosh and Lou share the goal of rewriting the stereotypical female narrative, by rejecting social expectation of amorous love as the ‘happily ever after’. Lou pursues no strings-attached sexual encounters, whilst Tosh gives up intimacy with the opposite sex altogether. With the rigidness of a society which labels you either a ‘slut’ or ‘frigid’, neither approach is presented as either right or wrong, and the play interrogates the idea of there being a ‘right’ way to be a feminist.

The play unconventionally skews the Bechdel test, by focusing on androcentric conversation, while ultimately prioritising platonic female love. The Bechdel test – which demands that a work of fiction feature at least two, named women who discuss something besides men – is an important standard for ensuring feminist representation. However, I believe it can be (and in this case is), a reductive measure. With retellings of intimate sexual encounters, and Charlie XCX’s Boys unsubtly punctuating each scene, the androcentric theme of the play is indeed inescapable. Yet it is merely a superficial layer to a much deeper, central idea, of female relationships, making Scenes with Girls simultaneously male-focused and female empowering.

Miriam Battye on Woman’s Hour eloquently described how female friendships are often misre
presented as “soft” and “cute”, and “put under the simplistic banner of girl power”. Scenes with Girls is an un-romanticised depiction of female friendship. It is not a celebration in the obvious, sentimental sense of high fives and fist pumps, but a complex and often painful one.

Battye is not afraid to demonstrate the potential for cruelty within these friendships, as the girls mock their friend Fran’s traditional beliefs. “She is so fucking addicted to the narrative,” they despairingly exclaim. Fran represents for the two young women someone who follows the path that society expects of her; of finding a man and settling down. While they mock her as a person, it is the concept of her ‘narrative’ itself they are ridiculing, and the Hollywood fairy-tale she represents. Fran is the epitome of heteronormativity which Lou and Tosh resent: a cliché of patriarchal tradition, which they feel a feminist duty to reject.

Scenes with Girls highlights the multi-faceted reality of female friendship as deserving of greater artistic space and attention. In a story about rejecting heteronormative narratives, the play itself redefines traditional feminist structures and expectations. Miriam Battye suggests that female friendships can be equal to, if not more impactful than romantic relationships, and this is certainly my own strong belief. Sitting next to my own best friend, Phoebe Waller Bridge’s words resounded in my mind: "we are the greatest love story in each other's life".

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