This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.
Flared jeans, Woodstock, rock ‘n roll and photographs of vast blue sky and desert in the background firmly set the scene in late 60s America, Texas to be precise. A young woman Jeanie is screaming in her bedroom kickstarting her monologue of how she got from a small town in the middle of nowhere, hitching up with a man, and through singing in bars and saloons, landing a recording deal. After a disastrous love triangle, her world came crashing down and she ended up back in her own childhood bedroom, recounting the ups and downs of it all.
Written, performed and with music by Victoria Rigby, there is an undeniable talent that underlines all aspects of the production. There is a specific youthful petulance in the character of the Jeanie which Rigby throws herself into, along with a reasonably convincing accent. A belting blues song shows off her voice which has a naturally strong projection, though it doesn’t quite translate to the quieter, spoken passages which occasionally turn into a mumble. She also struggles with the lower notes in the slower, folkish first song and some less than perfect guitar playing.
The angst is clearly defined in the play, along with the self-delusion, self-destruction and self-pity and Rigby plays all well. At the same time, the sheer amount of it makes it difficult to empathise with the character as she embarks on a destructive cycle of alcohol, drugs and men. On the subject of men, the ill-defined characters of Elliot and Chad provide the love interests, to the point where they are absolutely interchangeable. Both seem to play music, work in a garage and lack any memorable detail or character trait. They can really use some help from the director Niall Wilson and Rigby in attempting to give them a voice. The meandering plot eventually arrives at the final reveal which gives the reason for her monologue but by this time the curiosity for it and its impact have long gone.
Rigby has written a review within the play criticising the mediocrity of Jeannie’s album which could as well apply to this play. There is no doubt a great deal of potential, capturing aspects of the cultural and moral liberalisation of 60s America, its music, freedom to love and explore. What is missing is an important connection with the audience, may it be pity or danger, or a kind of emotional investment throughout, rather than one that is dropped in as an afterthought at the end.