Gaby Goes Global - Review

Local writer Judy Upton’s comedy tells of Gaby Johnson, an employment adviser whose transfer to the Brighton Job Centre leads to her becoming an on-line and media celebrity.

Although lacking in self-esteem Gaby always looks for the best in others. And it is this naivety that is easily exploited by some of her long time unemployed artist clients. Seeking to promote their artistic skills but unaware of their deviousness and the extreme entrepreneurial paths that they are prepared to tread she is persuaded to make a documentary with them.

What follows is a snowballing series of events that make up an amusing comedy with farcical and satirical elements. The world of modern art is sent up with digs at the Turner Prize and of changing fashions – here close-up paintings of genitalia and secret lavatorial videos prove to be the money spinners that they hit upon.
Also the shallow world of chat show programmes come in for some wicked ribbing when Gaby appears on The Coffee With Kate programme – great fun as the two swap jibes between false smiles.

As the innocent Gaby, who eventually becomes corrupted by success and money, Hannah Liebeskind successfully accomplished the character’s transition from the mousey down trodden clerk to the hard nosed business woman seduced by fame and money. The changes in facial expression and body language were remarkable.

Sarah Lauridsen gave a fine performance as her bitchy ice-maiden boss, Kay – switching from mean prissiness to girlish simpering whenever a male came near. Moog Gravett and Dan Walker played two long term unemployed brothers – Matt, a wheeler dealer whose talent lay in sculpting and Jed, a photographer who comes up with the idea of the documentary. Gravett brought out the opportunistic, Jack-the-Lad nature of the character whilst, in contrast, Walker made Jed a more introverted and self-centred person.

Nick Green played Larry, a visitor to the Job Centre who was actually looking for work. He gets drawn into the money making venture and raises Gaby’s romantic hopes.

Debra Wallis, an agoraphobic artist who paints from the soul, was in the very capable hands of Imogen Miller Porter – a truly comic portrayal of a person whose principals can be easily bought by a new Paula Rosa kitchen. Although playing two small roles Sarah Garbutt had great success as Marjorie, an elderly visitor to the Centre and with the chat show host, Kate - highly contrasting characters played extremely well.

Play and players combined to provide a fun and entertaining offering. However I did feel at times that some of the performances were a little hesitant. This I put down to the fact that I saw it very early in the run. No doubt subsequent performances improved as the play bedded down.

Ian Black’s direction was sound and his choice of play was ideal for a studio production – a minimum set of desks and chairs were sufficient. I liked his idea of creating a pre-play atmosphere with the bar area having a stand with jokey job adverts pinned up. I understand that for performances after the one I attended there was to be a busker in the room as well.

Barrie Jerram