May 31 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆   Girl power

The Studio: Mon 29 – Wed 31 May 2023
Review by Suzanne O’Brien

Hannah Lavery’s Protest at the Studio as part of the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival proves that, to bring change, all you need is a voice and a little imagination.

Co-commissioned by Imaginate, Fuel, Northern Stage and National Theatre of Scotland, Protest tells the story of three inspiring primary school girls who discover their voice when they are faced with injustice, racial discrimination, and reckless behaviour.

Tamara Fairbairn in Protest. Pic: Oluwatosin Daniju

In three intertwined monologues we are introduced to Alice (Kirsty MacLaren), a keen runner who must work extra hard to prove her place. Then we meet Jade (Tamara Fairbairn), whose experience of racial bullying leads to her learning about her family history. Finally, we get to know Chloe (Esmé Kingdom), with an innocent love for nature – particularly robins! – that slowly evolves into something more. Bubbling within them all is a shared desire for change.

Under Natalie Ibu’s direction, the talented cast bring an innocence, naivety and a growing enthusiasm which is set at a recognisable tone. Although the play is discussing serious issues such as sexism, racism and the climate, because it comes from the young girls own perspectives, it just gives hints at their negative effects and avoids really delving into their true ugly sides.

bright energy

The bright energy which the actors bring is brought out even further with Ali Hunter’s lighting and Amy Cook’s pastel-coloured set design. Made up of monkey bars and large shapes, the girls leap, climb and run across the playground with a youthful ease and fearlessness.

As they become more informed about the issues which they are facing and they begin to stand up for what they believe, the set evolves with them. Using chalk to slowly embellish the shapes and the ground, the girls literally show the mark they are making on the world.

Kirsty MacLaren with Tamara Fairbairn and Esmé Kingdom in Protest. Pic: Oluwatosin Daniju

The girls inspire their classmates and ultimately protest, through small acts. The influence their actions have reveal the connections between the characters and what starts as individual stories turns into a collective fight for change.

Lavery’s writing cleverly explores issues on different levels, from the small confines of a classroom, to the wider community and out into nature, making it easy to follow and on a relatable scale. Her writing also highlights that children of this age are still heavily reliant on adults and their teachers to help them make a difference and that they are not solely able to make changes themselves.

Lavery chooses to show that the controls and influences that adults have are not always positive. In a way, although the piece is aimed at 8–13-year-olds, it is indirectly speaking to adults as well; asking them to question their own behaviour and asking them to support the voices and opinions of young people.


Whilst empowering young girls to stand up against injustices and prejudices, it does single out boys and portray them in quite a stereotypical, negative light. Although the topics covered are universal and should of course inspire any person regardless of gender, race or even age, it is questionable how much young boys will feel empowered.

Also interesting is the piece’s limited acknowledgement of the digital age. The local newspaper and the town’s Facebook page are referenced but when social media and news platforms are our main source of information it is surprising that more is not made of this. In fact, no phones are in sight which is highly unusual for 10-year-olds nowadays.

Stripping it back to the basics however – spreading messages through word and mouth, placards, posters, and chalk written messages, does highlight that it is absolutely possible to make a change with limited resources.

Positive and empowering messages are the drive of the piece as it really encourages its audience to be kind and unleash their inner champion. As a young female, I strongly believe theatre is needed to empower and promote young voices and we need more productions like this.

Running time: One hour (no interval)
Studio Theatre, 22 Potterrow, EH8 9BL.
Mon 29 – Wed 31 May 2023
Mon: 1.30pm, 7.15pm, Tue/Wed: 10am, 1pm.
See Imaginate website for Tickets and further details.

Protest. Pic: Oluwatosin Daniju


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