Janey Godley: Good Godley!

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

Not much is sacred about Janey Godley's life less ordinary. Everyone she encounters, every experience she has, every sexual fantasy even, all provides grist for her mill.

And what a life it is. From working as a teenage in a grim Glasgow pub and becoming embroiled with some of the city's most brutal villains to attending the Baftas where she rubbed shoulders with the likes of Nicole Kidman and Rachel Weisz (who she thinks gave her an eye infection), she is a magnet for weird experiences.

For her, a story about being abused as a child by her uncle actually provides light relief, at least after the audience overcome their initial, and entirely understandable, sense of discomfort. No wonder Random House wants to publish her life story.

Godley, you see, is not one of those comics who trades on shared experience. Rather it's the honest, witty revelation of a world apart that makes her material so inherently fascinating. And the genuinely sinister backdrop gives her an angle that other comics can never hope to emulate, even if it's perhaps a little too real for the media types who always claim to be looking for 'edgy' comedy.

When writing the book, for example, she continually ran into the same problem ­ that telling a story would end up reopening old, unsolved crimes. Which is why her Fringe audiences are sworn to secrecy, Mousetrap-style, not to reveal the endings. Not so the show will run for ever, like the dreary Agatha Christie tale, but because it would save a hell of a lot of explaining.

That's never more true than with her engrossing final story, of a weapons stash seized by police, that deftly ties up much of the tales that have gone before.

Before that, we hear how she was banned from Sunday School for eating Jesus, or at least his Fuzzy Felt likeness, and also from a therapy session following her abuse because she didn't act like the victim in the way they thought she should. Ever one for an interesting life, she even married a man with a form of autism called Asperger's syndrome, which provides further, somewhat cruel, material.

Godley herself suffers from attention deficit disorder ­ not something her audience are likely to share when presented with this fascinating array of anecdotes, even though her repeated fantasies about young, athletic black men do their best to be disturbingly offputting.

Given the often bleak subject matter, you might not be surprised to learn that this is not laugh-a-minute stuff ­ although it is undeniably funny. There are a few clearly identifiable jokes, but it's Godley's natural wit and brutal frankness that carries the show so well.

The tales are absorbing, even more so in her capable hands as a skilful storyteller, and the material so obviously unique that lapses in keeping it perpetually funny are easily overlooks. Let's just hope the gangsters and the police are equally forgiving..

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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