Derry Girls – Review

Derry Girls currently showing on Channel 4, is an entirely welcome series. A show that highlights both the comedic potential of the female gender, as well as the myriad of comedic opportunities as presented by the teenage experience. Shows such as The Inbetweeners have tried to depict the teenage psyche, but too often strayed into the hyperbolic to truly be meaningful. Derry Girls, however, is both inherently comedic and offers an incisive social commentary. Set in the early 1990s, the narrative action takes place against the backdrop of ‘The Troubles’. Such inclusion instantly politicises the writing, yet through the casual manner in which the young girls view events (such as their school bus being forced to take a diversion due to a suspected bomb) is simultaneously rendered as simply part of everyday life. For these girls and their families, such events are, rather than a cause for panic, simply an inconvenience. Such representation, through its seemingly unpolitical nature, instantly becomes utterly political. This is not to suggest that the series offers a diatribe, but rather, through the inclusion of events in a specific and divisive period, ensures that notice is awarded appropriately.

The central conceit, following the various exploits of four teenage girls and a male English cousin, is, while often rather inane, entirely plausible and grounded in reality, a feat that ensures that the humour lands successfully. Each character is well-drawn, each presented as individual in their own right, while also interacting in such a manner that the friendship is entirely believable. Thus, the first episode, which witnesses the girls return for their first day of school after the summer, highlights the new-found confidence that students suddenly find themselves invested with when they perceive themselves to be veterans of the school. This bolshiness, encouraged by Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), who is invested with new-found bravado having watched Pulp Fiction with her father the night before, lands the group in trouble, accused of bullying. The act, which saw Michelle attempt to threaten a group of new girls into moving from the back seat of the bus, is thoroughly recognisable. So too, is the regular Friday night trip to the local chip shop. Each narrative thread thus far is entirely rooted in both school and the domestic, and it is this, along with wonderfully timed comedic performances, that helps to ensure that Derry Girls is a welcome addition to the genre.


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