Girl From Nowhere

HANNAH MIRSKY reckons this play isn’t perfect but it’s definitely going somewhere.

Corpus Playroom, 1st October, 9.30pm, £5/6

Directed by Niall Wilson

Before the show started, my plus one described the set as “artfully messy.” This, it turned out, is an accurate summary of the entire production. It certainly packs an emotional punch: at one point I felt my stomach dropping through my gut. But this comes after an incongruous opening that foretells an evening of mocking late-sixties pretension. Most elements of this production work really well, but at times they don’t quite work together.

Girl from Nowhere is a one-woman show telling the story of Jeannie Hogan, a small-town Texas girl who moves to the big city to follow her dream of becoming a singer. So far, so cliché.

But the production plays with our expectations. Take the protagonist’s bitchy cynicism: when a teenage boyfriend tells Jeannie that she has the power to change her life, she comments that it’s “a crock of shit”. The story’s ever-darker turns were also unexpected. As Jeannie’s horrifying vulnerability becomes clear, her dream of fame becomes an obsession, with one moment coming eerily close to the familiar cry, “Don’t you know who I am?”. Victoria Rigby brilliantly depicts the character’s contradictions, from quiet, traumatised narration to tearful tirade. I wasn’t sure how much to sympathise with her. My confusion, however, was demonstrative of the show’s strength, rather than its weakness.

Some of the comedic moments work beautifully – take the shockingly dark scene in which Jeannie snorts cocaine while roundly condemning drug use on the phone to her mother.

At times, however, the comedy comes too close to satire. Jeannie’s clothes are not unlike a sixties-themed bop costume – replete with headband, flares and aviators (despite being indoors).

This kind of stereotype pervades the first half: a love interest is introduced by being compared to Mick Jagger, and an otherwise electrifying musical performance is spoiled by some odd gyrating. At these moments, the audience was laughing, but the character wasn’t in on the joke. In a show otherwise so concerned with intimacy and emotional truth, this was a shame.

At the end, Rigby came on stage, bowed to the generous applause, and told us that the show was in development and we were welcome to come for drinks afterwards and give feedback. Yes, Girl From Nowhere would benefit from some polishing. But when an unfinished show can hold an audience tingling and transfixed, it suggests that the finished article might be a bit extraordinary.