Lonely Girl is a love letter to one’s fifteen year old self. Filled with self doubt and self inflicted melodrama, but brimming with playfulness, hope, and joy. It is nostalgic and warm and makes me yearn for the playlists that I created while in highschool but in the best of ways.
The play opens in a gorgeously-curated, pastel dream of a bedroom. The space is intimate, but even so, any single actor could easily be swallowed in it. Madhullikhaa Singh, playing the titular “Lonely Girl” in the one-woman show, never once allows this to happen. She constantly brings an energy and presence that is larger than life and throws herself fully into her role. She should be commended for her incredibly entertaining dancing and ability to keep an audience fully entertained for roughly 40 minutes, which is by no means a small feat.
Singh, under the direction of Thulitha Senevirathne, does not shy away from the limitations of the space, and instead uses closeness to engage directly with the audience. Her efforts are returned and rewarded by a rapt audience who click both with and at Danny Cabubas‘ witty script and hiss at opportune moments, lending to delightful instances of contribution and interaction. The infamous Cellar pole is used both to divide the space and for Singh to lean dramatically from, leaving very little view to be lost when sitting from the more unfortunate seats (at least, not for very long).
It was this devotion to our attention from Lonely Girl that made the times when she did not look at us so poignant. Staring at her desk mirror, the ceiling, or with her eyes shut, we get a glimpse behind the facade that she keeps up even to herself. But even then, we are whisked away before we are at risk of feeling too melancholy. The abruptness of tonal shifts, executed masterfully by Singh, allows both a discomfort to be felt that is so very true to life, and for audiences to remain engaged through the comedic asides.
Red lights during poetry show the depth of passion in Lonely Girl’s emotions, but also leave a slightly unnerving impression, which hints at the fate of one who is in love with the idea of being in love. Lighting, designed by Pearl Cardis, also played an essential role in differentiating the space from the other show in the double-booking, Boxing Day, and played it well. The tiny details of the galaxy painted floor of the horoscope obsessed 15 year old contribute to the show’s existence as a lovely gift.
For a show about a girl, yearning after a boy who does not return her affections, Singh manages to bring some character to the script, which revels in obsession. The idolisation of those who do not even appear on stage make them into main characters in their own right, leaving the audience to struggle at times to relate to Lonely Girl. It would have been wonderful to see her battle against the unhealthy mindsets she so clearly holds.
The whole show is clearly a work of much love and passion. There is a tenderness and kindness in the treatment of the sufferings of a romantic teen, and it was refreshing to watch something so self aware and so unabashedly far from deprecating. Lonely Girl showcased the wonder in allowing young people to value, rather than dismiss, their emotions, no matter how melodramatic or flippant they may be.