GOBBY may stir in you – as it did in me – a creeping realisation that, to the untrained eye, performing in a solo show looks an awful lot like preparing for a party where you don’t know anyone. There’s the hours of scripting one-sided conversations, steeling yourself for the fact that you can’t hide behind anyone else, and the vulnerability of putting yourself out there in a room full of (possibly inebriated) strangers.
When described in such damning terms, it’s a wonder that anyone wants to attempt a solo show at all. Thank goodness, however, that Jodie Irvine and Rosie Snell have had better experiences with parties than I have, because the end result is the excellent one-woman show GOBBY.
It charts the journey of Bri, a self-described loudmouth and generally anxious person, across five different stages of her life – all of which are represented by parties she went to during those times. We cut back and forth between the party at hand and Bri’s running commentary, as she peppers the scene with sardonic asides about the people she’s with. There’s Matt, who leaves Bri’s party early despite going “way back” with her. There’s her unbearable ex-flatmate Anna, and a completely hammered girl spouting wisdom from The Perks of Being a Wallflower verbatim. Most interesting, however, are the nameless, faceless partygoers who engage with Bri; these characters flit in and out of the story much like their real-world counterparts, and mirror the audience’s perception of her.
Bri’s struggle to gain self-acceptance is masterfully presented by Irvine: she gives us nuanced insight into the mind of someone who cannot stand themselves, but equally cannot stop perpetuating the cycle that feeds into that self-hatred. Early on, the script gives us plenty of hints that Bri is an unreliable narrator; we cannot parse out how much of the anger towards her flaky friends is justified, and how much is imagined. It would be all too easy to make Bri wholly unlikeable and self-destructive, but Irvine instead chooses to portray her as a sympathetic, lost character who will undoubtedly remind some audience members of their own troubled past selves.
With its deceptively simple staging and satisfying resolution, GOBBY is a sincere (but never saccharine) show that encourages us to be a little kinder to our younger selves as we remember them navigating parties, exes, friendships, and everything in between.