In a Brighton
basement eight young women sit on stools, waiting, the audience in a
semi-circle around them. A woman sings
There were times I felt I was watching an alchemical performance
Can You See Me Now? is the result of Miss Represented, Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival’s flagship creative learning project for young women aged 13-23. It provides a space for those who have been excluded from school and/or have contact with the care system. This evening is billed as ‘a cross-art show full of hope and truth’ including ‘the voices you seldom hear’, and as the girls start, it feels like we’re witnessing some rare act of courage and art. The music and lyrics are original, the film and stories crafted from the tellers’ shared conversations at the Miss Represented project.
A young woman shyly moves
to front of stage, takes up a microphone and sings a story of her ‘invisible’
life. The encouragement from the group’s facilitators, also on stage, and the
other performers is tangible. Another girl stands up, using spoken word to
describe the experience of multiple school exclusions. She’s followed by a
couple acting out shoplifiting, rage and powerlessness as the film continues
behind. Yet another young woman steps up to say: ‘Everyone I ever hung around with had some
sort of shit situation’. One sings, eyes cast to the floor, about the baby boy
in her heart (but no longer in her care) and members of the audience are moved
There were times I felt I was watching an alchemical performance, making gold from experiences that would otherwise have left these young women unseen and worthless. In a society where they speak of feeling controlled, untrusted, untrusting and hopeless, Miss Represented has pushed authenticity, courage and wisdom back into the limelight. There was no fakery here, only a burning desire to be seen for who they are without shame or misrepresentation, and the space to do it.
After the show came a Q&A with an emotional audience, some of whom had to wipe away tears before they could speak. In a post-truth era this was one reality show deserving of the genre’s title. Yes, Miss Represented, we can see you now. And we like it. Very much.