Best Girl Productions
One of the perks of reviewing for The BTG is the occasional invitation to check out a production before it is officially launched—which has just happened with the film version of Christine Mackie’s Best Girl.
Annie (Lois Mackie sole performer and daughter of the author) appreciates the value of secrets having kept one of her own for years. When she uncovers what she sees as an inconsequential matter concealed by her boyfriend’s family, the fallout damages the relationship. Meanwhile, Annie’s inability to address a trauma from her own past is beginning to consume her life.
Christine Mackie’s script is artfully understated. Moving subtly from an occasionally bawdy, gossipy tone to lyrical wistfulness. Annie appreciates artists who have "music in their veins" and also cheerfully recalls being served breakfast by a boyfriend wearing nothing more than a chef’s hat and a big… smile. In the past year, the Health Service has been praised to the skies and, while Mackie is keen to pay tribute, her script acknowledges the essential part of any treatment is the patient having the courage to seek help.
The script builds beautifully. Even in the earlier, lighter moments, there are hints of underlying darkness with Annie constantly referencing her grandmother rather than the mother who told her she was prone to "scenes of silence". The overall effect is of watching someone haltingly acknowledging the corrosive impact of a problem left unresolved too long.
Transferring a production from stage to screen in a manner that enhances, or at least does not detract from, the original is tricky. Director Kayleigh Hawkins is not content to simply record the stage version. Although the play is a monologue, Lois Mackie is a very mobile and expressive performer. Hawkins, in conjunction with cameraman John Anthony, uses mainly medium and long camera shots to capture the full range of Mackie’s movements; close-ups are employed sparingly to emphasise moments of high emotion.
Lois Mackie’s performance is highly sympathetic, her monologue becoming a therapeutic experience for the character she portrays. There is a growing sense of relief running through the play; Mackie is tearfully giddy with the freedom of finally talking about her traumatic experience. Although Annie’s moodiness and swings of temper are referenced, they are not shown; instead, Mackie concentrates on drawing out a sense of shame at her actions and determination to conquer the demons she has previously been unable to face.
Best Girl is a play that deserves to be preserved—and watched—on film.
(Best Girl will be available from 7PM on Saturday 17 to 1AM Monday 18 April and is 50 mins long with a Q&A session afterwards.)
Reviewer: David Cunningham