‘Actually, Good’ is far more special than its modest title suggests. Gillian Cosgriff is instantly charming and confident and has an uncanny gift for making us feel welcome and safe, promising that the necessary audience participation for the night will be anything but cruel.
It’s a comedy music show (partly) but is comprised of more than intermittent songs slotted into a stand-up set every ten minutes. Instead, the music often serves as an ambient backdrop too, creating an intimate, electric atmosphere with some kick. The performance is overtly structured around Cosgriff’s ‘book of good’ – a real record she is keeping of her audience’s top ten lists of ‘good’ things in the world, of which she provides us some examples: seeing cows run, uniting with new friends over a common enemy, and ‘Gangnam Style’. As we add our suggestions throughout the night, the audience’s honesty – which the performer has earned – is fascinating and she plays with our suggestions quick-wittedly.
Her self-penned songs are brilliantly upbeat, chirpy, and full of spot-on observations about the millennial experience, lockdown, optimism, and nostalgia. She also touches on life as a theatre professional and is self-deprecating yet relatable. Even her throwaways are clever and tickle us, never mind the well-paced, carefully crafted punchlines. Cosgriff is animated, energetic and yet effortless.
A highlight as we reach the show’s climax is a mesmerising piano-accompanied monologue detailing the story of a phone call she has with a counselling helpline. It’s poignant and gentle, and then manages a fantastic rug-pull denouement that doesn’t detract from its sweetness.
The most incredible thing about ‘Actually, Good’ is that it begins with frivolity and fun observations, then culminates in something genuinely profound and touching. Cosgriff offers us a heartfelt and beautiful perspective on life, death, and now. It’s actually superb.
‘Actually, Good’ runs until Sun 27 Aug 2023 at Pleasance Courtyard – Cabaret Bar at 20:20