At ten years old, GG (Naomi Sheldon) is of the impression that in order to be liked, she has to be a Good Girl. She’s at the county swimming championships and her coach is telling her to keep going, like a good girl. It’s such an awkward comment to make given today’s climate – the sinister connotations are hard to miss, despite it simply being a platitude of encouragement. But such an innocuous phrase seems to set up the remainder of GG’s emotional life, sticking in her mind at a pivotal developmental point for any child. Sheldon’s script tackles the damage caused simply by being anxious to fit in, to conform, to be a Good Girl.
For much of the story, GG seems like any other young woman – through her pre-teen to teenage years into young adulthood, she has a group of friends that discuss boys and their changing bodies. But GG seems to feel too much, describing it as a ball of energy inside her that threatens to burst out. It’s an apt description of something that children are never taught to understand – the feelings of anxiety that come with peer pressure and raging hormones. At first, they call it a Swayze, a pleasant warmth down below that seems foreign and strange. Then it’s talk of vaginas and orgasms – ultimately, it’s how to fit in and be the same as everybody else. But, how can we really know what is going on in each other’s bodies?
Sheldon is engaging, funny and effective at conveying the plethora of teenage personalities inherent within the girls’ coven. She writes honestly and truthfully about the difficulties of childhood years without sugar-coating the issues that children can face. They feel more impactful because they are still affecting so much about modern day culture. As GG’s ball of painful energy kicks into overdrive, she begins to break down more without ever truly understanding why – we don’t speak about this enough with the next generation.
There is a sudden switch in the story, a point at which Sheldon armours herself up and encases her overflowing emotions in a protective cage. It’s a switch that could be emphasised more in the production because the implications are somewhat dissociative in nature. Suddenly two personalities inhabit GG and it’s the turn of the cold, controlling bitch to come forth. She sleeps around to feel something and exhibits highly sociopathic tendencies. If people call her a whore, who cares? Suddenly the cat calling no longer affects this impenetrable exterior. Sheldon is less effective in her portrayal on this side to the character – she can’t seem to shut off her personality to the same extent.
Good Girl is a show where women are expected to have neat emotions and tiny, hairless vaginas. GG descends into the darker side of sexuality in order to try and come to terms with how she feels – sex parties, transactional encounters and the subsequent estrangement of her friends. Sheldon’s tale looks at the fallout from a girl who, in trying to be more ‘normal’, shuts down to an emotional shell and ultimately a less human version of herself. The execution needs more light and shade, but ultimately Good Girl is a worthy educational piece to show the next generation the mistakes of those gone before.
Good Girl plays Just The Tonic @ The Mash House as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 until 27 August 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.