Guest Blog: Naomi Sheldon On GOOD GIRL at VAULT Festival

Guest Blog: Naomi Sheldon On GOOD GIRL at VAULT Festival
Naomi Sheldon

Stood in the musty bowels of The Stand comedy club, I held a steaming cup of coffee to my chest and prepared to watch the show that would spur me to write my first play. It was the Edinburgh Fringe 2016 at 11am and the show was Bridget Christie's Mortal (but the set contained would then become Because You Demanded It).

She was angry. The audience was elated. This passionate, free and furious tirade about Brexit electrified me into action. It wasn't the subject matter that galvanised me to pick up a pen, it was the sheer passion of the woman.

The time had come to write about emotion. Big emotion that leaves you feeling you'll evaporate or explode, Bridget-sized emotion. But how to put it into a story - start with what you know, right?

Growing up, I was always told to "digest your feelings before you share them". I was taught that to express any excess of emotion was vulgar, unhinged even. I tried to keep the feelings in, to be a 'good girl' but it left me distant - "Where have you gone, dolly daydream?" - or unpredictable and angry.

It was the Nineties and the Spice Girls stared out at me from posters on my wall. Their brand of girl power seemed to be about rebellion and empowerment, but their expressions were curated to please, simplified, almost archetypes contained in five neat bodies.

Guest Blog: Naomi Sheldon On GOOD GIRL at VAULT Festival
Good Girl

Where were the raw, feeling women to guide me through my life? Was I alone in feeling this swirling ball of emotion rising inside me? I needed to write about those messy, informative years.

And yet... I wanted to get away from the received idea that women mainly write about personal experience. In Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, Jeanette Winterson reflects, "Why could there not be experience AND experiment . . . the observed AND the imagined?" I wanted to write a show that was honest rather than factual. This wasn't a confessional, but it was personal.

Writing a personal show can be accompanied by a huge sense of shame. Shame of taking up space. Many dark nights of the soul were spent watching YouTube clips of Brené Brown's The Power of Vulnerability (the Ted Talk I recommend to anyone suffering from a case of self-doubt) and texting women playwrights to check "This overwhelming sense of shame is normal, right?".

I mean, when was I taught to be afraid of having my voice heard? Thirty seconds into a preview of Good Girl, I heard an audience member heave a sigh of relief and nudge his companion - "Thank God, it's good". The archaic myth that somehow one-woman shows are 'self-indulgent' or 'generic' allowed doubt to creep in and my confidence was slipping. I expected the cringe when I announced I was doing the show and had apologies at the ready.

Now, it's a different story. I can't wait to share this show again. At the end of Good Girl our heroine GG demands we "channel [our feelings], like electricity". I think I'm doing that now. I hope Bridget would be proud.

Good Girl is at the VAULT festival 28th February-4 March, and Trafalgar Studios 5-31 March

Photo credit: Felicity Crawshaw

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