Jodie Irvine writes and single-handedly performs Gobby, and is already on stage as the audience enter, dancing alone and playing with balloons. It’s a lonely image and a theme that is carried throughout the play as protagonist Bri shows us the five most important parties she’s been to: most of them uncomfortable and short-lived.
It’s a story of a former loud-mouth (hence the titular nickname) who has become isolated from her old group of friends – referred to collectively as The Wolves. Bri’s goofy demeanor and nervous social interaction initially make us wonder if she’s always been an outcast and perhaps deluded about how close her ‘friends’ really are to her. However, as the narrative unfurls, it becomes apparent that things weren’t always this way. References to an ex-boyfriend, arguments, and stints at home without socialising begin to build a picture: Bri has been in an abusive relationship, sequestered from friends, and is now struggling to readjust.
Irvine’s performance is punchy and endearing (if a little repetitive in delivery) and she is able to convey the vulnerability, awkwardness, and inner chaos of Bri. She is also skilled in transitioning between secondary characters, adopting various accents easily and continuing to deliver laughs, although not all of the punchlines in Gobby land. What is frustrating, is that the play is contending with an important issue – domestic abuse – and while it is sensitive and genuine, could go even further. Bri’s past experiences are only subtly outlined. We aren’t provided with an entirely clear picture. How was she treated? Was she gaslighted? How did it begin? These unanswered questions mean the audience only has a partially formed idea of the what the character is contending with.
This isn’t to say the play isn’t successful. Perhaps its central issue could be explored in even more depth, but the character study of Bri is nuanced and her arc is rewarding. Gobby is engaging and funny, and Irvine’s performance is energetic and touching, making her an impressive star to watch.