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Janey Godley: The Godley Hour

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Jay Richardson

As a working-class woman from Glasgow’s East End, Janey Godley claims she’s an ethnic minority at Scotland’s international arts festival. An indelicate suggestion perhaps, but with a germ of truth in it, just as there is with her assertion that while other comics are feted as gifted improvisers, her random anecdotage tends to be overlooked as the mutterings of somebody a wee bit mental.  

She’s certainly one of a kind. The stories she unveils tonight have real life-and-death drama, virtually every one containing the basis of a potential Edinburgh show in itself: Me and My HIV+, Heroin-Addicted, Cancerous Brother; Pregnant Again at 49!; The Time I Accidentally Killed A Man! Again!  

The trouble with Godley’s consummate, storytelling style and rich tapestry of a life (her loving mockery of her Asperger’s husband, the bond with her performer daughter that makes them sound more like squabbling sisters, not to mention the long shadow of her mother’s murder and uncle’s abuse of her as a child), is reiterated when she confesses she throws her routines together at the start of her run as they occur to her.  

This feeds into her engaging, garrulous manner, fostering an intimacy she skilfully nurtures – to the extent of welcoming every member of the audience into her venue with banter about their supposed relationship to her. But it also lends the hour a slightly disconnected feel and tendency, if not to repeat old material, then to recall previous offerings.  

Thus fine routines, such as the pin-drop moment when she assesses her home pregnancy test and the gruesome account of her breast cancer mammogram, are bridged by her husband’s Rain Man tendencies, ground she suddenly seems to recall she’s covered before, and hastily extracts herself from.  

With a life as incidental as hers, it would be easy to produce big, high-concept shows every year. And it’s perhaps to her credit that her approach is less showy, more understated and conversational. But it does mean that her Fringe hours never seem that distinct from one year to the next, almost in spite of some of the extreme subject matter.  

Regardless, if you take these stories in isolation, there’s plenty to admire. Her bonding, with women especially, is never so ingratiating that she can’t blame them squarely for female body issues, taking blunt umbrage at anyone attempting to shed post-pregnancy weight by jogging alongside a pram. 

She’s enlightening on the simplicity of the female orgasm and insightful on auto-erotic asphyxiation, framing the perilous practice within the context of gender difference and the internet era. And she sneaks a cracking quip about Israeli defence policy into an otherwise affectionately mocking tale about born-again Los Angeles Christians ith sexuality issues.  

The bickering with her daughter, in which roles are reversed Ab-Fab-style so the child is the serious, admonishing one, is beautifully rendered and you get an entire panoramic of their relationship. And if her penultimate tale, about an LA sex party, is never quite as entertaining as the premise promises, it nevertheless affirms the comic possibilities of Godley’s staunchly down-to-earth, outspoken character moving in such bizarre, rarefied environments.  

Review date: 28 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson

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