Francesca Amewudah-Rivers 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 Francesca Amewudah-Rivers about her role in the play …

Please introduce yourself …

My name is Francesca Amewudah-Rivers. I’m an actor, musician and composer based in Brixton.

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

My Dad is Ghanaian and I have family in Ghana, so I was immediately drawn to the play. As diasporic people, there’s a common desire to find ways to connect to our heritage/culture, so it’s a blessing to be able to do that through this project. Jocelyn’s writing is masterful colourful truthful and incredibly smart. It’s a dream job.

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

Gifty is a sweet one. She’s the youngest of the group which gives her license to be cheeky and cute – her main motive is enjoyment. She’s hilarious but also uses humour as a survival mechanism. She lacks direction and is often overlooked or underestimated, so she looks to her cousin Mercy for validation and reassurance.

Tell us about working with your fellow cast …

The cast are magic – there’s a unique synergy in the room already. I love working with black women, there’s an ease of communication and a common ground that is really energising and exciting. Because the play centres around a group of girls who are all so distinct and layered, we’ve been working closely together as a group with Monique [play director] to find that organic lively dynamic. I’m learning so much from everyone.

Heather Agyepong, Francesca Amewudah-Rivers and company. School Girls Or The African Mean Girls Play-Image Credit: Manuel Harlan

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

School Girls … is about the ongoing journey to finding self-love when surrounded by unrealistic and damaging beauty standards projected by mass media. It’s about the complexities of sisterhood and a reminder to find joy, laughter and hope in the everyday connections and relationships that make us feel loved.

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

Mostly a good girl … I definitely was a bit cheeky but I loved learning so was studious and quite boring most of the time.

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

I love the variety of possibilities in a career in acting, but I always feel especially grateful when I’m working in theatre. It’s the power to educate, entertain, start conversations and help people to heal on a personal and wider level is urgently needed, especially considering how difficult the past few years have been. It’s a blessing to share this play in particular with audiences in this part of London, where there are so many diverse cultures; a lot of people will resonate with the story.

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

Instagram – @franarivers

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


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