“I’m laughing, I’m crying, it feels like I’m dying,” goes the distorted, dance-pop chorus that welcomes us into the world of Good Time Girl. The lights go down and the tiny makeshift stage reveals a blanketed figure on a sofa. Music fades to a harsh buzz as our protagonist emerges, wearing a grimace of weary shock – either at whatever happened before she passed out, how bad she feels now, or both. Bottom lip visibly quivering, she pours yesterday’s wine into a novelty, upside-down glass that only evokes absurdity in the face of her obvious turmoil, before leaving for work.
Being female requires a good sense of humour and a strong stomach, according to this sweetly-delivered, bitter-tasting monologue about mental health, sexuality and a traumatic episode in one woman’s life. Alienated, depressed and wasted in a call-centre job, Martine is our sardonic tour guide to a mundane dystopia of millennial ennui and sadness, morphing the word “Ikea” into “suicidal ideation” or eating a hot cross bun as a rebellious act of self-care. Tapping at a disconnected keyboard in between time-limited toilet breaks she tells us, in a voice squashed flat under the weight of her contempt, how her menial task is dressed up as ‘caller response’ in order to make it sound more important, “like we’re firemen or paramedics.” This line’s recalled darkly when Martine proudly notes her expertise while calling an ambulance after a deliberate overdose.
This is not a flinching drama, you gather early on, when, miming urination, actor Mica Williams really does pull her knickers down. Williams’ well-pitched performance is very funny, but also subtly reveals the cracks of fragility in the character’s mask of ironic detachment. Martine is subject to body dysmorphic disorder, a pervasive sense of her own ugliness. The bathroom mirror reveals that her head is “a red, yellow, grey potato covered in black mold.” Elsewhere, she sees herself as a snowman, a clown, a balloon… even a dead cow; anything comical, sexless, pathetic. It is so sad.
Even so, Martine’s days consist of numerous sexual fantasies that include the people she notices during her journey to and from work: the young fishmonger with the unnaturally straight moustache; the woman on the underground with the eczema’d scalp; “Ella with the nice-shaped mouth and black bowl cut”. When sex really does happen, it’s very drunken and not very consensual, provoking a self-destructive response.
The work of Pembrokeshire’s Georgia Coles-Riley, a witty and skilful writer, this play is still being developed since it emerged last autumn at a scratch night raising funds to support the one-in-ten women affected by endometriosis. The play’s forty-five minutes surge by with focus, thanks also to Siobhan Lynn Brennan’s energetic direction. In tone, subject and quality, comparisons can be drawn with Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s theatrical monologue that later became a hit BBC TV series. You wouldn’t rule out the same fate for this short, dark espresso-shot of sexuality and trauma, fluttering with mascara-black humour.