Lola Miller deserved every moment of the standing ovation she received on the first night of her one woman show, ANERDYFANGIRL394.
The stage is unmistakably set as a pubescent girl’s bedroom: fairy lights, fluffy notebooks and a concerning amount of teen-fiction posters let the audience know they are in for an hour of cringeworthy throwbacks. Sitting cross-legged on the bed, wearing a white fluffy robe that we later find covers some sexy lingerie is Lola, bopping to some good old fashioned tunes. The lights dim, and so it begins: a whistle-stop tour of the most painfully embarrassing and hilarious extracts of her erotic twenty six thousand words long (yes, you read that right) literary masterpiece, ‘Dean and Jo: Son of a Bitch’.
We are privy to some questionable figurative language, a rather concerning understanding of the technicalities of sexual intercourse (prepare to hear about tongues battling for dominance and a pinched clitoris) and some very telling descriptions of attractive women (the work is heavy on the “slender” “slim” and “skinny”). This is interspersed by real-life anecdotes, projected screenshots of saucy facebook messaging and Tumblr text posts, as well as audio, video and more. As Lola says herself, this is a lot; but the tech is effortlessly executed by Deasil Waltho, and the behind-the-scenes work of director Tigerlily Hutchinson, assistant director Bilal Hashna and producer Anastasia Joyce make sure the audience is not lost in the transitions between bedroom and sultry dramatic reading.
In many ways, Lola’s open, self-deprecating and sex-heavy sense of humour is reminiscent of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s ‘Fleabag’. Between joking about shitting herself after having a whole packet of ham for dinner and disclosing the most vulnerable aspects of teenage sexuality and insecurity, Lola manages to catch her audience in the act of laughing to pull on their heartstrings. We laugh with her about the excruciating metaphors of her erotic fanfiction, her misconstrued fifteen-year-old conception of feminism and her melodramatic disappointment with her first real-life experience of “the art of love-making”; but we also think about what it means to navigate sexuality without sufficient sex education, how it feels to discover your place in the world as a woman and the uncomfortable and painful reality of sex for most young women.
Her active engagement with the audience constantly tells them that this is meant to be a collective act of reminiscing and cringing, of thinking about how far we have – and haven’t – come. Lola might disagree with her therapist when she says the play’s self-deprecation is a means of working through the past, but for the audience it does end up working that way. So, as much as a one woman show has the potential to be overly self-centered, Lola’s introspective monologue becomes a shared retrospective experience.