Girl from Nowhere

theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 12 Aug 2015

The 1960s rock scene has been thoroughly mined for stoner stories, nostalgic fashion and tales of the young Penny Lanes who traipsed through it. But Victoria Rigby's one-woman play is wonderfully refreshing for finding a completely new riff on a played-out songbook: a tough and fiendishly ambitious woman's escape from joyless Nowheresville suburbia into the throbbing heart of the summer of love in Austin, Texas and beyond.

Jeannie runs away from church choir only to find herself touring backwaters with her ditchwater-dull boyfriend, singing country hokum in premarital harmony. But she's determined not to be his wife, and throws herself in the way of a long-haired rock god. She sets out to earn her own slice of rock 'n' roll immortality, stealing mens' forbidden flame by discovering sex, behaving badly and singing the blues.

Admittedly, Rigby is only partly convincing as the snarling, primal blues singer she tells us she is. Her voice is too pretty to plumb the gravelly depths of a real-life Janis Joplin. But she hits the low notes all right when it comes to the emotional dips of life on the road.

Rigby's text effortlessly skewers the peace 'n' love pretensions of Jeannie's comrades, who are happiest when they're dismissing her dreams as too much ego. Jeannie's no drippy hippy, but she's not too tough to be hurt by a scene that's stone cold under all that suede and tie-dye. It's this chill that lifts her story from nostalgia-fest to a blues-tinged feast, full of lyrical power.