Show: Good Vibes Only
Venue: theSpace on North Bridge, Argyll Theatre
Star rating ***
Reviewer: Victoria Clow
Good Vibes Only a new piece of writing coming from Laughing Mirror Theatre Company, written by Charlotte McEvoy and co-directed with Izzy Cutler, is a play all about pleasure! The joys and struggles of attaining it are described to us through verbatim interviews intersected into the drama that unfolds between the employees of the last open day of the sex shop ‘Good Vibes Only’, owned by Doris, a 60+yr old woman, and populated by Amber, Joe and Gareth, who is only there to get his Duke of Edinburgh.
The range of characters and the addition of the interviews brings a brilliant representation of a diverse variety of voices to the stage. The gender-blind casting is refreshing and not only gives the actors a chance to shine, but also is a source of curiosity for the audience. It’s a common problem, even now, that when learning about sexual health the boys get sent to one room and the girls get sent to another to learn only about the problems of their own gender. Having a young lad like Gareth be skilfully and sympathetically played by a girl, Katherine Edwards, encouraged the opposite gender to consider the problems he came across like erectile disfunction. This clever casting also brought to light the issues of age and sexuality in the older generation through Doris, played by Will Norris with a quirk and vigour suited to that of a 60yr old sex shop owner.
In addition, the inclusion of an asexual character, Amber, played with a lovely subtlety by Anna Hodgson, was incredibly interesting and genuinely educational. It was a smart angle and shows the new and growing acceptance and understanding of asexuality. Amber is the most nuanced character in the piece and it is achieved without compromising any of the humour which, I have to say, is remarkable. However, I do wish all the characters had this level of layers to their personalities, even the verbatim interviews.
The verbatim monologues were also gender-blind. I was struck by how hard it was to discern whether the interviewee was a male or female and therein lies what I see as being one of the main points of the play; it doesn’t matter. All through the play, there is a message of togetherness and support for each other, no matter their gender or sexuality.
Having said that, some larger, physical character changes would have been helpful in deciphering who was “doing who”, if you’ll pardon the pun. Aside from an occasional change of accent and a lighting shift, it was hard to tell when the characters were being themselves and when they had become an interviewee. Accent wise, some were attempted to show the variation of people interviewed but there was too much reliance on key phrases in the accent and this often became distracting. The lack of a dramatic physical change left me a little lost, especially in the later part of the play where the two overlapped. In many cases, both their character and the interviewees were nervous or scared and I would have been interested in seeing some more varied representations of these emotions.
Though not for a second did I want to stop watching! The energy the actors brought to the piece – particularly George Rennison who played Joe – was nothing short of captivating and their humour and passion had the audience begging for more. At 50 minutes in length, it never drags and I would have happily watched more. The comedy brilliantly highlights the issues which is juxtaposed with the, sometimes rather serious, interviews. With well
researched facts and tackling hard to talk about issues head on, I can guarantee Good Vibes Only will be a pleasurable experience.