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Good Girl review

| Comedy, Theatre | 29/11/2017


Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer and Reviewer

Naomi Sheldon has announced herself onto the dramatic comedy scene with this impressive debut exploring teenage rage and untreated anxiety.

As a powerful monologue delivered by an assertive, confessional and sexually liberated female lead, Good Girl has inevitably attracted comparisons to Fleabag.  But whereas Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s masterpiece provides a platform for a fully-formed, heavily-flawed, mid-thirties voice, Sheldon’s semi-autobiographical play charts the development of a young woman coming to terms with what society expects of her, namely being a “good girl with neat, little emotions”.

This journey through time – punctuated by bursts of Michael Jackson, Madonna and the Spice Girls – allows Sheldon to weave in enjoyable nineties references, with each mention of pagers, Helen Sharman and Viennetta delivered lustily and enlivened by flashes of her large, expressive eyes.  It also gives scope to relive the awkward excitement of puberty, with the play’s strongest and funniest moments dwelling on sexual development, fickle female friendships and main character GG’s crusade to counter a dick-drawing epidemic with her own “guerrilla vagina attacks”.

But the main focus of the play is GG’s messy, large emotions and fear she’s alone in having love and hate seemingly seep from her skin. “What if no one in the whole world feels this much?” she wonders early on, cowed – in that quintessential teenager way – by her own sense of uniqueness.  Her fear is exacerbated by inability to discuss it with anyone.  “It was the nineties,” she explains.  “No one had time to talk about anxiety.”

Although not entirely a feminist piece, much of GG’s anger stems from misogyny, which first rears its head when forced to take part in a swimming gala because she was caught kissing a boy.  The boy goes unpunished and – to her fury – she receives praise only when leading the race.  Her rage returns when objectified by male teachers and classmates, yet the “good girl” epithet interestingly inspires loyalty when delivered by a strong female figure later in adulthood.

In between those incidents, she resolves to switch off her feelings with a detached single-mindedness that gains many conquests but few friends.  Inevitably, GG’s feelings return in her late twenties – a rebirth neatly announced when she heads home to “tear out my contact lenses so everything’s all blurry like a newborn fucking baby.”  The new GG manages to find a way to channel her moods, but the rather rushed explanation of her coping mechanism is the weakest part of the story, lacking a wholly satisfactory resolution or shocking reveal (à la Fleabag) to complete the narrative arc.

However, that takes little away from Sheldon’s near faultless dramatic performance.  Energetic, sardonic and conspiratorial, her warmth permeates the audience as she carries them along on her journey.  Here’s hoping there will be many more to follow.

Naomi Sheldon is performing Good Girl at Angel’s Old Red Lion Theatre until Friday 1st December from 7.30pm.  See the trailer and get tickets here.  The play will also form part of VAULT festival early next year.  Follow Naomi on Twitter @NaomiSheldon1 for information on upcoming projects

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