Fringe Online 2020
It’s a solo spot on a single circle with the spotlight on Naomi Sheldon. Taking us from her early awakening self through to womanhood she imagines and draws her friends from school as they develop from swimming galas to relay races, kicking boys in the testicles, masturbation and witchcraft, the finding of a Swayze, emergency meetings at her friends and from schoolyard tales she becomes a woman who is both awakened and in charge of her own Swayzes now.
Performed three years ago onstage at the Old Red Lion, in London, it feels odd to suggest that some of this is quite dated but now it doesn’t shock as much as it might have done at the time, especially given the furore over WAPO online.
Naomi Sheldon is imperious as GG, and all of her friends which are well crafted, as she takes us through the awakening and burgeoning feeling, she has that she is becoming a woman in the 21st Century. Her performance is what really motors this but because I am not shocked by the subject matter, nor by the descriptions and how someone describes them it is interesting to note the underlying message contained within it; that even three years ago, human sexuality was still a subject that was taboo and difficult to bring up.
The story of GG from her under 11 self at the swimming gall until she is in her mid twenties is told in an engaging manner. With clear direction and swaps between characters that are well drawn and beautifully performed though sometimes a little caricature, we get the sense of remembrance of a childhood rather than the history lesson it may have become. We look back fondly at these times if not also embarrassingly and this is conveyed neatly and with great nuance throughout.
There is little need for props on extras as everything is drawn very neatly by Sheldon in a way that keeps your attention focused on what matters – the experiences drawn out by the script.
And the narrative manages to be both authentic in its depiction of teenage, prepubescent and adult themes of awakening of sexuality whilst also being on the edge of falling into cliché but managing to steer clear. As such it gives us the truth which is familiar and the tendency to blush which is unfortunate.
Being online does not deaden the effect of the performance quite so much because of the strength of both the script and the way in which it has been performed and directed. It makes it overall a great piece of theatre to sit back, relax and wonder why people get thoroughly embarrassed by it.