A SOLO REFLECTION ON PUBERTY AND AFTER.
Naomi Sheldon’s solo, semi-autobiographical hour comes from Edinburgh crowned with plaudits, though cunningly in the programme she does an “alternative poster” of rude things people have said about it. Like “Posh bird talks about women’s ‘hardships’”, and “stereotypical vagina talk”. Crafty, that. And indeed there is much to like in a well-crafted monologue, delivered with considerable physical and verbal agility as she comically manoeuvres as a sub-teen worrying about her lady-bits, or takes on the persona of Laura the Cool Schoolfriend who is less intensely bovvered about everything.
She also knowingly laces it with references which delighted the audience (mainly women, nearly all her own age). Patrick Swayze in Ghost, the Spice Girls, potato waffles, LIam Gallagher, Michael Jackson (one of her teenage pinups alongside Henry VIII). And, of course, that cliché of a self-help question so utterly baffling and faintly repellent to my generation, “What would Madonna do?|”. Her evocation of Sheffield schooldays is one of the best bits, the boys forever drawing dicks on “any flat surface” including her art project, the conspiratorial conversations about what sex might be, the amateur witch-coven round a dying hamster.
So I can see why it shone in the frenzied Fringe environment. And I would very much like to see this actress – sweet-faced, dungareed child of the millenim, in a play interacting with others. And, to be frank, with more gripping issues. I know I am older, raised in a culture more restrained and more broadly idealistic about love, honour and faith; , but I have vivid teenage memories too, and do not entirely believe in the utter fixation on sexual physicality which is the core theme, diluted only with repeated confessions of “rage”, not against anything specific, and with her metaphor of feeling that her body had no edges.
Certainly it is clear that sexual developing for some of her generation has often been an utterly joyless, mechanistic, impersonal affair, improved only by a short-lived obsession with lonely vibrator sessions so intense that even the sight of an AA battery could set her off. Similar female angst was better done in the solo version of FLEABAG, which was more bitterly honest about the damage of a sexually obsessive culture. But here, there is no sense of search for an actual lover or actual love – beyond the all-girls-together school gang . Nor do I entirely believe the narrative about the character selling herself at a masked sex-party, or fully buy her conclusion that it is good to be like her, full of passionate vague self-absorbed rage, one of the “people who burst at the seams” ; as against the “good girls with tidy little emotions and tidy little vaginas”.
www atgtickers.com to 31 April