Swifties at Theatre N16

Swifties is a new play by Tom Stenton, based on Jean Genet’s play The Maids, which sets out to explore  celebrity culture and its impact on the lives of the average person. In particular we see Nina and Yasmin, obsessed by Taylor Swift and the stark contrast this provides to their life working in an Amazon Fulfilment Centre and living in a bedsit. Their escapism is achieved by role-play as Taylor and head Swiftie but spills out into their daily existence and lines become blurred. Central to this show is the impact of the celebrity culture, social media and expectations set by the likes of Nina and Yasmin upon themselves due to this.

Nina and Yasmin are played by Isabella Niloufar and Tanya Cubric. Their commitment to this piece is admirable with their energy constantly high and their engagement with this very close audience unflinching. I didn’t however always believe Nina and Yasmin’s back story. These are girls that are supposed to live in a bedsit and work at an Amazon Fulfilment Centre and are so downtrodden by this that the are willing to take extreme measures to escape it. This feeling was not encompassed by Niloufar and Cubric and they were both far too engaging and charismatic to believe that that they only had each other.

SwiftiesSwifties opens with one of Yasmin and Nina’s role-plays although it isn’t until several minutes into the role play that the audience realise this. Whilst this is a clever technique it dragged on for too long as it does little to develop the story or the themes behind it beyond the first few minutes.

Asides from the issue of pace and  dialogue meandering along before getting to any plot point there are several other problems with the script. There are numerous throwaway references to other characters such as Josh, a friend with benefits, or their place of work. Neither of which were developed to their potential and simply felt forgotten about in the latter part of the show. Expletives are thrown in as if to shock but instead I felt myself cringing at their use. As a result the remerging pattern throughout the show, was that whilst it has some good ideas and an interesting premise the show itself fails to make these points really hit home.

Swifties is a show that needs development and for a dramaturge to sit down and cut large chunks of the play. Cutting these chunks would allow time to draw out the points that audience can sit and hold a mirror up to themselves with and come to a more interesting and reflective conclusion on the piece.

Swifies is on at theatre N16 until the 11th March.

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