Heather Agyepong 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 Heather Agyepong about her role in the play …

Please introduce yourself …

My name is Heather Agyepong, I’m a British Ghanaian Visual Artist & Actor.

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

First off Jocelyn Bioh’s writing is incredible, her timing, the vulnerability and how relatable it is, its phenomenal. Secondly, so many people told me I needed to meet Monique Touko and to meet her on a project is a dream, she is like an actor’s director, so collaborative and full of wisdom. Lastly, it’s a Ghanaian play and I hardly ever see plays from Ghana so it’s just an honour.

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

I play Ama, she’s really smart and somewhat the sensible one of the group and best friend to the Queen Bee, Paulina. She is really trying to find her voice and we see how young women battle to find that in adolescence but also the challenge of pleasing their parents and friends and something always has to give to re-centre yourself in your life.

Tell us about working with your fellow cast …

The cast are phenomenal. Our lead, Tara Tijani is outstanding so it feels so brilliant to be surrounded by such talent every day.

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

For me, it’s about celebrating our beauty and understanding that we simply can not rely on the Eurocentric capitalistic so-called ‘standard of beauty’. The majority of people on this planet will never fit this beauty ideal so the hope is that this will fuel our insecurities and force us into a cycle of inadequacy which fuels our spending habits and reliance on things outside of ourselves. The play deconstructs this myth in a hilarious, poignant, and joyful way which really resonates long after you’ve left the theatre.

Heather Agyepong and company. 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.

For me, this show hits close to home. I haven’t had the same experiences in the show but I do identify with Ama’s feeling of voicelessness. Scared to say what she really thinks because of expectations or representation but I go through that by valuing my integrity more than being liked so it’s been humbling to revisit that experience.

Tell us a memorable moment working on this.

Actually getting the job. In November 2022 when the Lyric Theatre said this show was coming next year I put out a Tweet which said “Dear God this play, I MUST be in it”. It’s pinned on my Twitter, and I’m here. Man, what is for you won’t pass you by.

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

Gifty is a character I adore. Come and see carefree black girl joy. I love them all but I’ve defo got a soft spot for Francesca Amewudah-River’s portrayal.

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

I think I was both you know, but aren’t we all.

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

This is a dream, just to be part of important work and brilliant writing, it’s high up there.

What’s next?

A group exhibition of black artists at Photo Ireland Festival called I See the Face of Things to Come between 30th June – 27th August. And we’ll see what happens with School girls next.

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

www.heatheragyepong.com | heatha_a – Twitter | heathatrottlives – Instagram

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


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