The bright yellows soaking Shida’s promotional material might lead you to believe that it’s a feel-good shot of sunshine in the dank bowels of the Vaults. Not quite. Jeannette Bayardelle’s one-woman musical tracks the story of the titular young woman: a smart, talented aspiring writer who suffers many injustices – sexual abuse and drug addiction, just to name a few – before emerging out the other side.
Bayardelle can really sing – no two ways about it – but her writing leaves something to be desired. Shida all too often falls into the trap of telling the audience what’s happening and exactly how people are feeling, rather than showing it, and it begins to grate, as though the audience isn’t fully trusted to join the dots.
It’s a rapid-fire show, clocking in at just under 70 minutes with 23 songs, and it feels overwhelmingly that breadth has been prioritised over depth. Andy Sandberg’s direction errs towards the overly emphatic: Bayardelle hunches over when playing an old woman and affects a high voice when playing a young girl in a somewhat unsophisticated manner. It’s a shame: Bayardelle is a compelling and charming stage presence, but often she’s masked by unnecessarily forceful characterisation
Ultimately, Bayardelle’s voice and score are the real stars of the show. Numbers flit and flow easily from jazz, rock, and R’n’B, with the tender Being the Other Woman and ceiling-raising Inside of Me/New Life being the highlights. And Clancy Flynn’s fizzy, expressionistic lighting design works beautifully against Charlie Corcoran’s simple chainlink fence set design, delicately suggesting the internal and external barriers Shida faces.