Review By Tessa Stickland
Be Good is a one person play by comedian and writer Laura Josephine about being a people pleaser.
The story starts with our protagonist, Jan, stuck in an (as yet) unknown predicament. Reminiscent of every teen film, we have an “Uh oh! Bet you’re wondering how I got here” and a live rewind.
It’s clear that the use of this trope, and other coming-of-age movie tropes, is on purpose. It's a parody, bordering on pastiche at times – as it’s used as more of a vessel to tell the story than it is actively making fun of the genre.
It feels like a love-hate letter to teen movies and ‘after-school special’ style stories. It mocks their formulaic structures, while acknowledging the usefulness of it for storytelling.
I was initially caught off guard by Laura Josephine’s sincerity in the portrayal of main character Jan. She commits to Jan’s character so much that it took me a moment to be sure how much awareness she, as a writer, had behind using the teen film tropes. But it became clear soon enough — as her other characters are more caricatured.
I love the earnestness of Jan. It creates this funny sort of ‘cringe’, like looking back at your own teen self. It’s like a squeamish laugh. Laura Josephine’s performance captures this feeling that’s hard to put into words.
Playing Jan so sincerely creates contrast between her and the other characters. This is useful on the basic level of helping the audience know which character is being played at which time during a one person play. It also elevates the use of coming-of-age tropes.
In a teen film, the protagonist is ~Unique~ and ~The Center Of The Story~. Much like the feeling of being an actual teen. So highlighting the difference between Jan and everyone else is an important part of showing that feeling. We also spend the most time with Jan, so it makes sense.
Be Good explores themes and concepts like people pleasing, fear of ostracisation, self-care and self-love, exploitation, and growing up. The contention of the show is: no matter what you do, you can’t please everyone, least of all yourself.
As a people pleaser myself, I connected with these themes a lot. I especially connected with the fear of being called or thought of as “a bitch”. Especially as a teen.
In this analysis of people pleasing, Laura Josephine draws out the humour of all the oxymorons and paradoxes it entails. The lengths we go to, to please others at the expense of ourselves is funny.
The sharp transitions and musical numbers give the show a theatrical feel. It’s short and tight with no chaff. So if you’re looking for something outside the usual stand-up, this narrative driven play is sure to Be a Good time. (Geddit? Coz that’s the name of the play… I’ll show myself out.)