Goody review at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh – ‘intricate physicality’

Goody at Pleasance Courtyard Goody at Pleasance Courtyard

Lucy Roslyn’s new play, Goody, is set in a travelling circus during the days of the Depression when jobs were scarce, and people craved sensation and entertainment.

The two-hander explores the tender and complex relationship between Francis and his performing chimpanzee, Goody. Roslyn plays the chimp, perched up on her toes with her arms dangling. Since her costume basically consists of black trousers, t-shirt and a cap, she has to use gesture, movement and facial expression to convey her chimp-ness.

She does this remarkably well. Her performance is clearly the result of considerable research and close observation – Roslyn visited animal sanctuaries and zoos in preparation for the show. Her physicality is intricate and there’s eloquence to her chimp-isms: each curl of the lip and slap of her chest.

As she lopes around the stage, we grow to understand the intimacy and intensity of Goody’s relationship with her trainer and owner Francis.  Jesse Rutherford conveys his affection for his charge and the tenderness that exists between them. Goody is his livelihood and, in some ways, his only friend, but she’s also a wild animal with the capacity to harm him.

There’s an overhanging melancholy to what is in essence a kind of tragic love story. While Roslyn spends the first half of the play grunting and making chimp sounds, as the audience starts to see her through the lens of her relationship with Francis, she finds her voice. She starts to speak. This is an interesting idea but one that could have been deployed earlier in the piece.

Jamie Firth’s production is gentle and poignant, and the premise is promising, but it feels a bit shapeless and before Goody finds her tongue the writing gets pretty repetitive.

Delicate and poignant two-hander featuring a superbly physical performance by Lucy Roslyn