It took me longer than I’d like to admit to realise that the protagonist in Good Girl wasn’t actually called Gigi. It was an eponymous reference (GG = Good Girl) and I should have known, because the writing in Good Girl is exacting. It premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe last August, so playwright and performer Naomi Sheldon, along with director and dramaturg Matt Peover, have had time to work on the script, and it has paid off. Sheldon’s one-woman play captures, with great authenticity and authority, the difficulties and delights of a teenage girl growing up in the 1990s, and the arduous journey of learning to be comfortable in one’s own skin.
Like many girls in that era, GG adores the unabashedly sexual Madonna and participating in seances with her friends à la cult movie The Craft. Unlike them, however, her reactions to social situations are best described as manic. Unfortunately for her, teenage girls are rarely sympathetic to behaviour they don’t understand and this results in her being ostracised. Not only is this totally disastrous for a young girl, but it conditions her to dissociate from experiences as an adult – sex becomes meaningless, even dangerous, and she can hardly form real relationships with anyone.
For a rip-roaringly funny play, Good Girl goes into some very dark places. A turning point is a sexual encounter with a stranger that goes awry, but it is the rock bottom she desperately needs to lead her towards acceptance and healing. The next time we see her, in 2017, she appears to be more in control of her life. It is not exactly clear how she has turned her life around, except that listening to ABBA does the trick. It is to Sheldon’s credit that we don’t really mind the slightly abrupt ending, because the more important thing is that we get the old GG back – still intense but learning how to cope with her emotions better.
Sheldon’s performance of GG and her friends, especially her gang of girlfriends, is delightfully spot on and she has the ability of making you hang onto every word with her impeccable timing and her honest and hilarious writing. “What am I meant to do? Page someone? Everyone’s too busy reading Garfield and eating Viennetas,” is one moment that got everyone guffawing, even though what Sheldon is really talking about is the lack of mental health awareness in the 1990s (which continues today).
It is no wonder the set by Alison Neighbour is kept minimal – just a round platform centre stage – because Sheldon simply fills the room. Complementing her energetic performance is the music, which samples hits ranging from Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ to Chic’s ‘Le Freak’ and Madonna’s ‘Unapologetic Bitch’. In Good Girl, Sheldon has created a play with so much life it expands and takes off into the air, carrying us along with it. Yes we may fall, but for now, like GG, we’d rather fly and feel alive.
Good Girl is at Trafalgar Studios until March 31st. For more details, click here.