School Girls Or The African Mean Girls Play Reviews ★★★★

Reviews are coming in for the UK premiere of School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play at the Lyric Hammersmith in London.

This critically acclaimed comedy by Jocelyn Bioh is directed by The Stage Debut Award Best Director winner Monique Touko.

School Girls… stars Alison A Addo (The Lion King), Heather Agyepong (The Power), Bola Akeju (Ted Lasso), Deborah Alli (Undercover), Francesca Amewudah-Rivers (Bad Education), Jadesola Odunjo (You), Anna Shaffer (The Witcher) and Tara Tijani (Death in Paradise).

Set in 1986, at Ghana’s prestigious Aburi Girls Boarding School, Queen Bee Paulina and her crew excitedly await the arrival of the Miss Ghana pageant recruiter. It’s clear that Paulina is in top position to take the title until her place is threatened by Ericka – a beautiful and talented new transfer student. As the friendship group’s status quo is upended, who will be chosen for Miss Ghana and at what cost?

In the wider creative team are: Set Design by Paul Wills, Costume Design by Kinnetia Isidore, Wigs, Hair and Make-up Design by Cynthia De La Rosa, Lighting Design by Matt Haskins, Sound Design by Tony Gayle, Movement by Aline David, and Casting by Julia Horan CDG.

School Girls or The African Mean Girls Play is playing at the Lyric Hammersmith to 15 July 2023.

Read reviews from the Evening Standard, TimeOut, The Stage and more, with further reviews to be added.

Book tickets to School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play at the Lyric Hammersmith in London

School Girls or The African Mean Girls Play reviews

The Evening Standard

"That’s so fetch"

"Bioh’s dialogue fizzes with both laugh-out-loud quips and savage insults"

"As teenagers, we all knew a ‘mean girl’ or two; either you were on the receiving end, or you were the one doling it out. As adults, we also understand that behind all that bravado there is, nearly always, a person riddled with insecurities. It’s this notion, tied in with themes of race, beauty and friendship, that American playwright Jocelyn Bioh explores in this big-hearted comedy that first premiered off-Broadway in 2017."

"Bioh’s dialogue fizzes with both laugh-out-loud quips and savage insults. Despite the text’s specificity of time and place, the writer strikes a universal resonance with the way teenage female friendships can be characterised by both immense pain and fierce loyalty and love. Under Monique Touko’s attentive and playful direction, the play soars into something hugely fun and vibrant – and a great group of performers helps, too."

"The schoolgirls are brilliantly cast. Tijani as Paulina strikes a delicate balance between ferocity and, later, vulnerability, and Bola Akeju as Mercy is hilarious – you’ll find your eye continuously drawn back to her."

"There are times when the plot feels a little too predictable, and times when I question the outright, unfiltered cruelty of the friends...Nevertheless, this is an exuberant production that manages to be incredibly fun whilst also highlighting important questions around colourism, racial identity and Eurocentric beauty ideals in a way that isn’t heavy-handed."

Farah Najib, The Evening Standard
Read the review
More The Evening Standard reviews
The Stage

"Relatable expression of teenage girlhood"

"Eloquent exploration of the effects of colourism delivers a valuable lesson and lots of laughter"

"On the surface, the script is brimming with hilarity: the girls laugh exuberantly and dance on classroom tables one minute and ferociously fight over nothing the next. Each character is written with confidence and a clear position in the dynamic. But dig a little deeper and there is an eloquent exploration of the effects of colourism – racism’s equally ugly relative."

"At first, it appears that the play trails off with no neat conclusion. It is a piece full of battles, but there are no clear winners. Perhaps that is the point; colourism is what happens when Western beauty standards dominate places where they are simply unachievable. This play shows Black women that there is nothing but misery to be found in chasing them – and that there is beauty to be found outside of that: you just need to acknowledge it."

JN Benjamin, The Stage
Read the review
More The Stage reviews

"Jocelyn Bioh’s satire about cliquey goings-on at a Ghanaian girls’ school is sharp and affecting"

"Playwright Jocelyn Bioh isn't the first to be fascinated by the ugliness behind beauty pageants: the sweat under the satin, the casual cruelties dropping from those lipsticked mouths. But her hilarious, biting comedy ‘School Girls’ goes further than the likes of ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ by carefully showing how white-run institution Miss World insidiously poisons a group of Ghanian teenagers, all desperate for a crown that's firmly out of reach."

"Monique Touko’s lively staging is bright and heightened without losing sight of the humanity of these girls."

"‘School Girls’ is bursting with sharply funny lines and precision-engineered setpieces: the scene when the gang performs a shambolic Whitney Houston vocal number in puffy ’80s gowns is a masterpiece of ‘Mean Girls’-style teenage chaos. But there’s a bleakness to it, too, as it shows the pain of these girls and woman as they sacrifice themselves for a Western narrative of beauty that they know, deep down, will never embrace them."

Alice Saville, TimeOut
Read the review
More reviews by Alice Saville
More TimeOut reviews
The Independent

"Based in 1980s Ghana, Jocelyn Bioh’s acclaimed off-Broadway hit explores the rapidly changing dynamics of a friendship group..."

"Her script elegantly expresses how factors such as colourism, poverty and white supremacy can lead to self-hatred that inevitably spreads outward. All eight actors of the ensemble cast shine on stage, from the necessary warmth of headmistress Francis (Alison A Addo) to the hilariously ditzy double act of pupils Gifty and Mercy (Francesca Amewudah-Rivers and Bola Akeju)."

"Bioh’s play is more than Africa’s answer to Mean Girls. It’s an incisive, intelligent 80-minute exploration of teenage wrath – and the funniest thing on stage this summer."

Nicole Vassell, The Independent
Read the review
More The Independent reviews
The Guardian

"Clever comedy leaves a stinging afterburn"

"Jocelyn Bioh’s bitingly funny and sometimes heartbreaking play transposes relatable high-school movie tropes to 1980s Ghana to explore beauty standards and colourism"

"... in transplanting this overworn format to Ghana in the 80s, Ghanaian American writer Jocelyn Bioh has sharpened up it up and created a funny but biting play packed with clever laughs that come with a stinging afterburn."

"It’s a story that raises difficult questions about who defines beauty, and the awful knock-on effects it can have. Yet despite this specific context, there is plenty about Monique Touko’s warm and engaging production that will feel painfully and amusingly familiar to everyone. The terrible fragility of teenage friendship. The need to fit in yet also stand out. That burning desire for a big and beautiful future."

"All the actors shine but it is Tara Tijani as queen bee Paulina – destined to become Ghana’s beauty queen until a lighter-skinned transfer student comes along – who taps into the heart of Bioh’s play."

Miriam Gillinson, The Guardian
Read the review
More The Guardian reviews
The Times

"Barbs fly in a teen spitefest"

"Hell hath no fury like a teenager scorned — and in this energetic, hormone-spiked spitefest Jocelyn Bioh examines the hopes and delusions of six girls at Ghana’s prestigious Aburi Girls’ Boarding School in 1986."

"It says a lot about Monique Touko’s ebullient production that, amid the vanity and poison-tipped insults, what comes to the fore is the girls’ irrepressibility."

"Bioh deliberately takes difficult themes and plays them for laughs; while beauty pageants seem increasingly old-fashioned, social media has ensured that the teenage obsession with physical perfection is not, and she shows how here it’s compounded by colourism."

"Sometimes the script could afford to dig deeper, not least in the moment when Nana finally turns on Paulina... Still, the irreverence is infectious, not least in the girls’ deliberately hopeless rendition of Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All. I suspect this will prove a box-office tonic."

Rachel Halliburton, The Times
Read the review
More The Times reviews
Sign-up for booking alerts, offers & news about School Girls or The African Mean Girls Play and other shows:

📷 Main photo: School Girls Or The African Mean Girls Play. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Related News

More >

Latest News

More >

Leave a Review or Comment

Comments and reviews are subject to our participation guidelines policy, which can be viewed here. Our policy is for readers to use their REAL NAMES when commenting.