Best Girl is a story told by the nervous, but likable Annie. Annie tells her story, diving into different sections of her life, a story about her dealing with the loss of her father to the Balkan War. Best Girl is generally pensive and well-thought out.
Pensive, well thought out and strangely haunting.
Christine Mackie wrote the play using her experiences of losing to her own father to WW2. This is a strength. The script is heartfelt and the writer has a clear message and well formulated ideas. The production is notable for small expressive details such as Annie carrying a book to her father, or the fitting sound design. The script is subtle. It's easy to overdramatise grief both as an actor and a writer, and it never felt like they were sensationalising anything. Best Girl focusses on Annie's character as a normal woman, while giving grief a quiet presence throughout the show. It lurked on the sidelines, only rarely coming into view.
However, solo shows are really hard to do well. A brilliant solo show doesn't just need one hell of an actress but an actress in a distinct mould. And although Lois Mackie is clearly accomplished - she is expressive, she is certainly able to summon tears when necessary - I didn’t feel she was really in that mould. There's a feeling that you get with really good solo shows - and this is as much to do with the director - a feeling that the performer has squeezed every drop out of a character, lingered over every emotion, understood what was behind each move (and communicated it). Mackie clearly made choices, and stuck to those choices and that is commendable, but I felt there was more to explore. She also didn't quite have the versatility to pull of scenes playing multiple roles. Louis Mackie has obvious strengths, and all this is not to ignore the fact she would be exceptional in roles more suited to her.
In her defence script did not give her much help summoning sympathy from the audience. As I mentioned, it didn't spend much time on melodrama. Unforunately also the comedy of Best Girl didn’t seem to get more than a polite titter from the audience. I can definitely accept that might change on a different night (even if it was a bit like listening to a geeky cousin). All of this placed unfair demands on the actress herself.
That said, Best Girl did leave me with the impression that I’d seen something true. I did wrestle with it, and it did leave me with a strangely haunting picture of how a traumatised person sees themselves. There is enough to appreciate to make it worth a look.