Naomi Sheldon’s explosive one-woman show is an inspiring union of feminism and the best kind of comedy- refreshing honesty. Spanning the years 1995 to 2018, we see the development of the 90s girl, GG. The piece is so of its time in its nostalgic references about a time growing up before the emergence of feminist discourse regarding a girl’s sexual, emotional and bodily understanding.
Sheldon has an awe-inspiring control over her voice and body, filled with an energy that transforms her unrelentingly from character to character, populating the stage with her friends and classmates.
No barriers are built as we hear of her trying to understand the anatomy of her vagina: its shape and its sensations. Gigi tenderly describes her worry that she is different. She talks of how her “skin doesn’t work”. We hear how it “seeps”. By this she means that her emotions spill out of her sometimes, uncontrollably, as her body physically feels what’s around her: it’s a startling child’s perspective on a sensitive temperament that tragically becomes incompatible with adolescence and she is forced to contain her bubbling emotions.
Sometimes Gigi is fully engrossed in telling her story, sometimes she is asking the audience for understanding: reaching out to us to find a sympathy her friends cannot provide. As she reaches adulthood, she has developed a numbness. This is represented through a relentless quest to find an orgasm- one which, it turns out, meaningless sex cannot provide. There is a masochistic taint on this period of her life that is uncomfortable and perhaps is the crux of the play: a manifestation of the damaging effects of not allowing yourself to feel.
I watched the play immediately after reading an article by Lili Loofbourow titled ‘The Male Glance’ that argued for a world in which we looked deeper into things, instead of seeing only the make-up perfected skin, not the blemishes underneath. She wrote about our institutionalised understanding that ‘Male art is epic, universal, and profoundly meaningful. Women’s creations are domestic, emotional and trivial’. Good Girl seems to be the kind of thing Loofbourow is pleading for: a piece of art that we recognise as profound in its depth and honesty about the female experience.
Naomi Sheldon shouts her story to the world: we should be allowed to feel our pain, be loud if we like, be “intense”, be boisterous. My only criticism of this play is that I didn’t see it when I was 14.
Good Girl is playing at Trafalgar Studios until 31 March 2018
Photo: Felicity Crawshaw