Solo shows/monologues are still very much in evidence particularly on the festival circuit as they are relatively easy to tour round and often only require minimum set and, by default, costuming/props. Needless to say, this is a real boon with Covid restrictions very much still in place – unless you’re the Euros or Wimbledon of course! The latest piece at Jermyn Street’s Footprints Festival is a good example of this and rejoices in the title of The Girl Who Was Very Good At Lying.
Actually, the title should probably be more properly The Girl Who Thought She Was Very Good At Lying But Actually Wasn’t… Except For Lying To Herself as a more accurate summary of the content. Catriona is a young woman with form in this particular area much to the despair of her mother. She’s got a job working in a bar but seems to spend a good deal of time avoiding it, especially when she takes a shine to an American tourist – unnamed throughout for reasons which eventually become clear. Catriona appoints herself as his (un)official tour guide and starts showing him round her small and unremarkable town in Northern Ireland. Fumbling for something interesting to say she starts inventing anecdotes. In the first instance this is limited to something relatively believable – pointing out a wall she tells the American that this is where the British shot dead a couple of hundred townspeople. But, as with most tellers of untruths she starts to embellish and it’s not long before she is telling him lurid tales of cannibalism and mass orgies involving monks and nuns.
The American seems to fall for this stuff – or is that just Catriona lying to us about his reactions? But then she starts to wander into Billy Liar territory inventing a whole projected and plainly ridiculous future for the pair of them which involves becoming a latter day Bonnie and Clyde roaming the mean streets of Ohio and armed to the teeth – there are shades of the great Philip Ridley in this part. In her desperation and getting caught up in her own web of deceit, Catriona throws caution to the wind and trails the American to his hotel. But then she comes up against something unexpected…to say more would give the game away.
Catriona has some obvious issues and while Eoin McAndrew’s interesting script is highly amusing we are also meant to take pause for thought as to how this young woman came to find herself lying and fantasising her way through her otherwise mundane day. The fact that we go with it is largely down to a lovely performance given by Rachael Rooney as she draws the American and us into her Catriona’s world. Rooney plays all the parts (yes, it is that kind of show) and brings life to her gallery of characters none more so than the protagonist. There’s a touching coda at the end where she and her mother form a new rapport and we see that Catriona is hardly more than a girl who needs adult protection – if only from herself. I wasn’t quite sure why, at this late stage, the decision was taken to make the mother an offstage voice (Anne Bird) as this seemed a bit of a departure from the rest. I wondered whether we were supposed to see this as another facet of Catriona’s fantasising; whatever the case McAndrew and director Fay Lomas might usefully revisit this section.
Otherwise, I found Lomas’s direction to be sharp and focused and the decision to play out the show against simple curtaining and with nothing more than a couple of chairs helped to throw the wild story telling and fantasising into sharp relief. It is one of the better shows I have seen at Footprints and deserves a wide audience so see it if you can. And keep an eye out for Rooney who I think we will be seeing quite a bit more of in the future – no lie!
The Girl Who Was Very Good At Lying is available via the Jermyn Street website – click here
The full programme for the Footprints Festival at Jermyn Street Theatre is here
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