A room, with a bed in it. The bed is unmade, messy, as is the room; beads, sunglasses, shoes, bottles and pill tubs lie strewn haphazardly around the floor and the sheets. On the wall pictures of the sky, pictures of the American desert, pictures of highways and gas stations. The year is 1969 and we are in Coyote Creek, Texas. A girl is shouting offstage, arguing with someone; as the altercation reaches a frenzied, screaming crescendo she enters in a whirl of fury, all tumbled red hair, swinging bell-bottoms and rage. This is Jeanie, and this is her bedroom. At least, for now. She is planning to leave, to get out forever, but first she is going to explain. To tell us how she went from a small town Texan nobody, the “Girl From Nowhere”, to a rockstar and back again. Here, in this small, claustrophobic bedroom she will take us through the joy and the agony of the last few years of her turbulent life.
If a one-woman show in a one-room set sounds a bit static – not a bit of it. This girl is one big fidget; she fiddles constantly with her hair, her clothes, her beads, the sunglasses go on then off then on again, she sits, she stands, she lies down on the floor, she lies down on the bed, she paces. She should really have been smoking, if only to give her something to do with her hands. It’s probably deliberate; an attempt to convey the restlessness of the character; but it’s a bit distracting. Especially since the story is so engrossing; you just want to yell at her to sit down and get on with it.
For this is no run-of-the-mill sex, drugs and rock and roll cautionary tale. Terrible things have happened to Jeanie, many of them her own fault, but heart-breaking nonetheless. She tells us about them with brutal candour; about her hopes, her frustrations, her loves, her successes – and about that devastating downward spiral that led her back here, back to Coyote Creek and to her old bedroom in her parents’ house.
She tells the story well. Victoria Rigby is not just playing the role of Jeanie, she wrote the story too and she knows how to bring it to life. She clearly loves the character and despite all of her many flaws; her impetuousness, her bloody mindedness, her naivety, the audience grows to love her too. She laughs, she pouts, she snarls, she faces down the world with a guitar and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Rigby plays fairly well and her voice is good; she pulls off a decent version of Penicillin Blues (an odd choice – had Jeanie been hanging out in Glasgow?), but it is her stage presence that is really exceptional. She gives a gripping performance; every naked, raw emotion is etched into her face. The sunglasses are a mistake, as when she is wearing them her mobile face and expressive eyes are hidden, making it much harder to empathise with Jeanie’s often ridiculous behaviour. Her mother’s interruptions from outside the door are artificial and jarring. Luckily, neither detracts for too long from the emotional rollercoaster ride on which Rigby is taking us.
The Girl From Nowhere is no epic, Homeric tragedy. It is the story of a small girl, in a small world, living a small life. It is Jeanie herself who lifts it out of the mundane and makes it extraordinary, and the hour you spend in her company will be a memorable one.
Review by Genni Trickett
The Girl From Nowhere:
“If you hear this from anyone else, they’ll tell it wrong.”
America, 1969. Vietnam. Apollo 11. Woodstock. The country may be bursting with the vibes of peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll but Jeannie Hogan is back home in Coyote Creek, deepest Texas, disgraced after a disastrous rock tour. Subjected once again to the small-town business of a home she’s outgrown, Jeannie stews in her teenage bedroom, desperate to escape.
Girl from Nowhere, Written & Performed by Victoria Rigby
Director – Niall Wilson, Designer – Pippa Scarcliffe, Producer – Arsalan Sattari
27th to 31st May at Theatre503
General Tickets: theatre503
Telephone: 020 7978 7040
Theatre503 at The Latchmere
London SW11 3BW
Thursday 29th May 2014