Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Venue: Gilded Balloon Teviot.
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
Janis, the story of Janis Joplin, is a one woman, continual dramatic dialogue that portrays the life of the legendary music artist. The script dives through her ups and downs, her on and off relationship with drugs and alcohol and her promiscuity, Nicola Hayden is in parts entirely captivating. This is a must see for any fan of Joplin’s work as well as those with a dedicated nostalgia for a such a revolutionary era.
Janis is a one-woman play that recently scooped an award at the Brighton Festival Fringe and is a revival of an earlier version performed by Nicola Haydn several years ago.
The story starts: she tells us of her young teen hood, of how her parents always expressed a desire that she be “just like everyone else.” From there we follow her through her career, her brief time of recovery and life in suburbia, through to the live gigs that became her only saving grace. Her story is truly fascinating and it’s portrayal on stage is well worth watching.
The script is, although set within a linear time frame, intriguing and captivating. It undulates through emotions, soaring to rip-roaring heights and then to the ultimate lows. It is full of savage sentiment and packed with period references and is thus realistic and believable. There is always a danger with a one person dialogue, that an audience can become bored, but this is not the case here. The script has been worked and edited and is a magnificent work of writing.
Props are used well and cleverly throughout. As Joplin becomes more and more involved with her stories and, inevitable, more and more high, she piles herself up with feather boas and beads, which are systematically removed at the end of the play: a lovely metaphorical and symbolic stripping down, a reflective and poignant moment.
Haydn herself is in parts wonderful in this piece. Her portrayal of the lows is wholeheartedly exceptional. Joplin’s gradual intoxication through the piece is subtly portrayed and truthfully done. Conversely, however, Joplin’s ups are less successful – this side of her seems a little more forced and is less believable. Overall though, the audience stays with the story which is driven by the acting, a mean feat when alone on stage for an entire hour.
This is a beautiful play that will be highly entertaining to anyone with an interest in either Joplin herself, or the music industry in the 1970s. Its style is direct and often simple which creates an interesting tension in a piece portraying the life of a person who led such a chaotic and manic lifestyle. A wonderful and moving way to spend the afternoon, highly recommended.