Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

Clever, funny and fearless: Good Girl at Soho Theatre online reviewed

Plus: naughty of Nottingham Playhouse to use Alan Bennett’s name to draw punters into the colossal waste of time and energy that is Still Life

Clever, funny, fearless and indomitable: Naomi Sheldon's Good Girl at Soho Theatre. Photo: Felicity Crawshaw

A new work by Alan Bennett features in Still Life, a medley of five ‘untold stories’ from Nottingham Playhouse. The dramas were filmed during lockdown. Before the Bennett première, there’s a monologue by a wittering granny complaining about the price of cereal in a deserted food bank. Then, a banality-crammed slice of jabber between two van drivers eating lunch on a flight of stairs. This is followed by a ten-minute soliloquy from a precocious schoolgirl whose insights include, ‘my books are very heavy’ and ‘England is not part of Scotland’. A fourth cascade of tosh is parroted by a dim cab driver who trundles around the city bantering aimlessly with an eminently forgettable passenger. All these characters seem to share a common mental affliction: they have nothing to say but they can’t stop saying it.

Finally, the Alan Bennett show begins. Frances de La Tour stars as a widow, Muriel, who sits at home rehearsing the speech she intends to make at her husband’s funeral. He may, or may not, have died of Covid. After two minutes, Muriel receives surprising news and stops speaking. And that’s the end. A huge disappointment. And a bit naughty of Nottingham Playhouse to use Alan Bennett’s name to draw the punters into a colossal waste of time and energy.

Naughty to use Alan Bennett’s name to draw the punters into a colossal waste of time and energy

A young musician, Toby Thompson, has created an hour-long fairy tale for children called I Wish I Was a Mountain. It’s a mixture of poetry, jazz piano and recorded music, and he uses an attractive, flexible set which he builds and dismantles during the show. His work is profound but accessible to youngsters and his theme is the agony of human desire. Our wishes spring from deficiencies but as soon as one wish is satisfied a new one replaces it.

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