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Review of Naomi Sheldon’s Good Girl at the Vault Festival

Good GirlGigi (Naomi Sheldon) is not the typical Angry Young Person on some sort of crazed crusade – and not just because she’s recounting her childhood and early adult experiences at a later stage in life. She’s been described as a ‘good girl’, hence the show’s title, by various people in various contexts. It’s reached the point where she even goes by GG, the initials of Good Girl. In the details of the narrative it becomes abundantly apparent that she is no saint, getting, for instance, as many reprimands from school teachers as any other student, with varying degrees of justification, at least from her perspective.

Being a single performer production, there’s only one lens through which GG’s life and times, as well as those of others (of whom there are plenty – a large number of school friends, acquaintances, classmates and teachers are all named) are portrayed. Sheldon voices each of GG’s close friends distinctly enough to permit dialogue at conversational speed between them, and it’s easy to follow proceedings despite a twenty-three-year timeline in a one-act show. Good Girl goes against an increasingly common feature in contemporary plays with a longitudinal timespan, where the story jumps forwards and backwards between the years, making things unnecessarily complicated. Here, we start in 1995 and work up to 2018. As a certain catchphrase in a television advertisement campaign put it: simples.

The style of delivery is clear and focused, and the script turned out to be boisterous and amusing. I must say I’ve never come across such a candid and convincing account of what it was like to grow up as a millennial (that term is not, as far as I can recall, used in the show), and it is the unusual and unexpected outcomes of events that stick in the mind. An example: GG is having a bad day, and this is compounded by certain boys being – well, boys. So GG lashes out, the end result being a school assembly a few days later in which the dangers of kicking boys where the sun doesn’t shine are spelled out.

There are many coming of age stories out there, and many plays in which an almost inevitable part of character development involves some element of growing up and/or coming to one’s senses. There aren’t that many shows, however, that spin a story as vividly and convincingly as this. It doesn’t hold back: the descriptions of what goes on during puberty, then university and working life, are meticulous, and become, slowly but surely, by increments, uncomfortable. The lack of video and still projections, or even props, means the production relies mostly on good old-fashioned storytelling of a most contemporary life, furnished only by a soundtrack of chart music tunes, and even then only sparingly.

There’s a lot packed into this story, including an exploration of the psychological pressure to conform to the apparent norms of modern society. And it’s done brilliantly, without being preachy or claiming to have all the answers, or pushing a political agenda. The youthful exuberance is gradually displaced, and there’s something to be said about turning to albums like ABBA’s ‘Gold: Greatest Hits’ when the going gets tough. At the curtain call, I thought to myself that I didn’t do anything similar, but I was in denial: it later occurred to me quite how many musical cast recordings I have in various places around the house. All things considered, I can’t fault this unrestrained and unreserved ode to life and all its idiosyncrasies and imponderables. An extraordinary performance.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

A bold, provocative and darkly comic coming-of-age tale that interrogates the experience of a young girl growing up in the 90s, Good Girl is a timely and distinctive piece that offers a vital new perspective to current dialogue about female experience. Sheldon’s unusually inclusive and charming form of storytelling allows her to candidly explore sex, masturbation and mental health, evoking the most wonderful and terrifying moments of growing up.

The opening week at Trafalgar Studios coincides with both International Women’s Day on Thursday 8th March and the Women Of The World Festival at Southbank Centre from 7th to 11th March, where Naomi Sheldon will participate in a panel discussion and perform excerpts from the show. This timely production has been praised by Academy Award winner Emma Thompson who described the show as “Cutting edge truth and hilarity from one of the freshest young voices this century. Don’t miss Naomi Sheldon’s Good Girl.

Growing up in the 90s, GG and her friends obsess over music, vaginas and witchcraft. But there’s a problem. Living feels too extreme. To be one of the good girls GG learns to make herself numb, but at what cost?

LISTINGS INFORMATION
Vaults Festival
The Vaults, Leake Street, London SE1 7NN
Dates: 28th February – 4th March 2018
www.vaultfestival.com

Trafalgar Studios 2
Trafalgar Studios 2, 14 Whitehall, Westminster, London SW1A 2DY
5th – 31st March 2018

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