Underbelly was the birthplace of Edinburgh Fringe success story Fleabag in 2013. Six years later, it became home to Gobby – another dark and funny one-woman show, which has taken up residence at London’s Vault Festival.
The parallels are obvious: millennial angst, tick, toxic relationships and self-defeating behaviours, tick tick. But it would be doing writer and performer Jodie Irvine a disservice to cast her in the shadow of Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Her writing is excellent.
Bri (Irvine) relives the five parties that have changed her outlook on life, friends and the relationship she has with herself. It all becomes quite meta as she warmly introduces the audience, like any good host, to the five acts of her play.
This intimacy continues throughout as she slips in information about her gaslighting ex-boyfriend, referred to only as “him”. But after recalling the toxic details, she quickly returns to comedy. Irvine incorporates her painful memories without burdening the play.
She is skilled in switching between monologue, direct address and conversation, adopting Welsh, Australian and northern accents.
The stage is an explosion of party poppers, hats, balloons and glittery plates, but Irvine uses them as more than simple decorations.
A balloon becomes the head of flirty Mick the Australian, while one hat tucked inside the other forms a cocktail shaker. But the showy party props are a front in the same way Bri uses humour to mask her pain. Bunting that proclaims “It’s a party” falls to reveal a hidden banner that reads “Intervention” when Bri breaks down at the third party.
Though the big moral message at the final party is a touch forced, this can be forgiven in what is ultimately an accomplished piece.