Deborah Alli Talks … School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play

Written by the award-winning writer/performer Joycelyn Bioh …

School Girls; or The African Mean Girls Play, set in 1986 at Ghana’s prestigious Aburi Girls boarding school follows Queen Bee Paulina and her crew excitedly awaiting the arrival of a Miss Ghana pageant recruiter. With Paulina obviously set to the title things are thrown into disarray when her place is threatened by Ericka – a beautiful and talented new transfer student.

We spoke to one of the cast, Deborah Alli about her role in the play …

Please introduce yourself …

Hi, I’m Deborah Alli, an actress from Hackney.

Why School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play?

Our director Monique had seen me in my previous play, “Best of Enemies” and I was asked to audition. Saying yes was a no-brainer, from the first read I was gripped, and couldn’t stop laughing, and then another page turn had me saying “Oh no she didn’t!” I saw elements of my childhood, honestly, I’ve never read a piece where I could see my own experience. I knew there was something special about this piece, and I wanted to be a part of it.

Tell us about your character and what their goal is in the play …

I’m playing ‘Eloise Amponsah‘. Former Miss Ghana 1966. Bougie and Sassy. Years later, she has become a recruiter for the Miss Ghana Pageant, and yet she is still fighting to win.

Tell us about working with your fellow cast …

I’ve been so blessed to get to work with these amazing women. The rehearsal room is filled with so much joy, fun, tears, lol-age, and gorgeous melanin. Every day is completely different but the support and love is always there. I couldn’t be happier to be in such an inspiring and uplifting company.

What does the story of School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play mean to you personally?

Even though it is set in 1986 Ghana, Jocelyn’s writing transcends time and continents. I felt like I was reading a flashback in my own childhood. I had those thoughts, I fought those battles to finally be comfortable and proud of the skin I’m in. I know younger Deborah really needed to see this play: to know what I know now.

L-R-Deborah Alli & Alison A Addo.- School Girls; Or The African Mean Girls Play: Image Credit Manuel Harlan

Tell us about a challenging moment during this project that you had to dig deep to get through.

One of the challenges I found was the first time we got into a scene where Eloise delivers a savage verdict during the play; it goes against anything I would do, and I was completely moved by the other actors in the scene that were receiving it. I was literally fighting tears whilst being the ultimate villain.

Tell us a memorable moment working on this?

In the play, the Miss Ghana Pageant is coming up. We had our first movement call, tables were joined to form a catwalk, speakers were blaring out music, and we strutted our stuff. We were giving “Ghana’s Next Top Model” vibes.

Which scene/character best defines what you love about this project?

That’s a toughie. It’s gonna have to be when one of the girls gives Queen Bee Paulina a taste of her own medicine.

Were you a mean girl or a good girl in school?

Sorry, I was a goody two shoes.

Considering your career evolution, where does this project sit on your checklist?

This is my second job out of drama school and it’s definitely one for the books, and for the culture.

What’s next?

We’ll have to wait and see!.

How do we keep up to date with you and your work?

Instagram – @deborahalli_

School Girls; Or The African Mean Girls play runs Thursday 08 June – Saturday 15 July 2023 @ Lyric Hammersmith


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