By Christine Quintana. Directed by Pedro Chemale. Produced as part of Rumble Theatre’s Tremors 2018 festival. At the Italian Cultural Centre on Thursday, August 16. Continues until August 25
“I would have said no.”
Christine Quintana’s Selfie is the second amazing play I’ve seen about consent this summer—the first was Amy Lee Lavoie’s C’mon, Angie! at the Firehall in June—and it’s no surprise to me that young women playwrights are creating the most powerful theatre around this topic.
In Selfie, outgoing Lily (Grace Le) and introverted Emma (Olivia Lang) are best friends about to start the 11th grade. Lily’s older brother Chris (Carlen Escarraga) is a year ahead of them and is the most popular guy in school. He and Emma have been secretly into each other for a couple of years, and it all comes to a head when Lily and Chris throw a massive party to celebrate their parents going out of town and kick off the new school year. The girls get wasted and Chris and Emma finally reveal their mutual crushes and kiss. They go to his bedroom, and the next morning Emma knows that something has happened, but she can’t remember anything and her life is turned upside down as she tries to make sense of everything about that night.
Quintana’s writing is natural, bitingly funny, and heartfelt. All three characters are wholly developed and vividly real. The actors are excellent and the chemistry between the trio is achingly believable, but it’s Le who is the major revelation here. Lily is incredibly funny and impulsive, and Le brings a lot of humour, vulnerability, and heart to her performance. Lily is one of my favourite new characters in recent memory, and Quintana’s writing and Le’s line deliveries keep Lily’s character occupying a particular sweet spot in the Venn diagram of ridiculous and hilarious. “You smell like a fancy drink from Cactus Club!” she tells Emma, utterly sincere in her praise.
Even though there are plenty of laughs, Selfie doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff. Informed, enthusiastic consent is not a complicated thing, but it is, unfortunately, a relatively new concept. By deconstructing rape culture and exploring consent in smart, engaging, entertaining, and emotionally fulfilling ways, nuanced plays like Selfie and C’mon, Angie! are taking some of the most difficult conversations of our lives and putting them up on-stage, under the spotlight, and refusing to be silent anymore. And even though its characters are teenagers, don’t be put off by Selfie’s centring of youth: this is required theatre for everyone.