Play: The Girl Next Door

Thirteen-year-old Esther’s life has just been turned upside down. Her parents tell her one day that they are getting divorced and that she is to live with her grandfather in a new area and start at a new school.

So starts tententheatre’s The Girl Next Door, a modern morality play that has been playing to similarly-aged school children at Catholic schools up and down the country and was performed on June 10 at Westminster Cathedral Hall.

Forlorn Esther thinks she is to blame for the divorce and her only outlet, apart from the comfort offered by granddad, is her diary.

This diary is also a useful narrative tool to tell us how she is settling into her new life and the faltering first steps of friendship with 13-year-old-John, the football-mad boy next door.

Sitting alone in the back garden she watches as John takes a penalty which will win the World Cup for England. John is also supplying the commentary and is disconcerted to find that he has an audience, even though Esther promises she is not laughing at him.

John deigns to talk to her and before long Esther is timing his training sprints around the garden as he prepares for a life-defining trial with Newcastle United; an opportunity that his pushy father has warned him not to blow.

The friendship is blighted by John’s crush on the sassy Steph, who reads Heat Magazine and wants to be a WAG. Steph doesn’t like the new girl and starts to send her nasty text messages calling her “fat, ugly and useless”. 

It’s a familiar tale of broken-heartedness and bullying that all too often causes misery for children when they should be enjoying the best years of their life.

But here comes the God part. Distraught Esther tells her granddad about the texts and the wise old man tells her to look in a mirror. “What do you see,” he says. “A fat, ugly, horrible person” she replies tearfully.

“Well, look into the mirror again and look at yourself with God’s eyes now tell me what you see?” he says.

Esther notices the difference and Grandad delivers the coup de grace: “You are very special.”

Esther starts praying everyday and slowly gains in confidence. She and John become good friends. “I’ve been praying lots recently,” she tells her diary. “I don’t know why I like it so much but I don’t feel so alone anymore.”

The 40 minute play, penned with a good ear for the modern colloquialisms of young teenagers by Martin O’Brien and Marc Norris, does not go into the complexities caused by her parents divorce and apparent neglect of Esther.

Rather it focuses on the transforming power of God’s love. This, together with sensitive and empathetic performances from Joe Maccabe (John) – a former child actor on the BBC series Biker Grove – and Ashley Ferguson (Esther), provides a powerful message for children of a similar age - many of whom could be having their young and fragile hearts broken by the same kind of traumas.

Ten Ten is a theatre company with a Catholic ethos which stages plays for secondary school children. Since launching in 2007 Ten Ten has played to 75,000 young people in more than 30 per cent of all Catholic secondary schools in England, Wales and Scotland. It also regularly plays to Young Offender Institutions. Ten Ten is currently developing a project for primary schools in Relationship Education.  For more information see:

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