“Why do you think you’re a bitch?”
Girl Bully is an hour of vindication for any woman who has ever been asked if we still ‘need’ feminism.
Warning—the first question you’ll be asked upon arriving at Rock Rising’s Girl Bully might invoke a mini existential crisis.
This is exactly the reaction Mary Clohan and Mary McDonnell are trying to inspire. What makes someone a bitch? How can one word have so many meanings? Is the multifaceted ‘bitch’ reflective of society’s demands on the female population to be every kind of woman at once, without ever being the right kind of woman? As McDonnell points out during the Gameshow sketch, “We can’t win.”
Touching on topics like sexual harassment, double standards, the education of young girls, mixed messages, mental health, competition between women, internet trolls and a million other things, Mary Squared weave their own experiences into humourous sketches and thought-provoking debates. The flow from scene to scene can feel a bit abrupt, with the Marys popping in and out of character as they grapple with the larger issue of being female in the 21st century. But every sketch contains a grain of uncomfortable truth and is performed with sincerity and enthusiasm. This is very much a show for the millennial woman.
The pieces range between punchy one-liners (“I’m a bitch because...”), Powerpoint presentations (join a non-profit aimed at distracting internet trolls with sex) and various childhood throwbacks (we’re now convinced that “Never have I ever” was a game designed to slut-shame women). One of the more poignant scenes involves McDonnell trying to navigate a phone call with a close friend, while Clohan—playing her inner dark thoughts—constantly interrupts to point out her flaws and failings. This sketch was one of many that lay on the border between light-hearted humour and depressing reality.
The best kind of comedy observes and reflects on the absurdity of human nature. Why do we do the things that we do? Aren’t most of our thoughts and actions pretty ridiculous? Clohan and McDonnell are absolutely on the right track with their first Edinburgh Fringe show. The main difficulty with tackling the struggles of modern womanhood is how absolutely depressing some of the related issues really are. More established performers with Netflix specials (see Nanette) can take their audience down a dark path, but first they have to establish trust. At the Fringe, there is less time for relationship building between viewer and performer. Mary Squared have accumulated a lot of fresh, engaging material—all that’s left is to decide whether they want us to laugh or cry at the end.
Girl Bully is an hour of vindication for any woman who has ever been asked if we still ‘need’ feminism. After spending several nights watching male comedians complain about their girlfriends/wives on stage, this show is the perfect antidote. You’ll laugh, you’ll empathize, you’ll make notes for future arguments. And, if Clohan and McDonnell are emblematic of the future of modern feminism, I think we’re heading in the right direction.