Amy Trigg’s witty, funny, occasionally very sad monologue about life as a gal about town (with spina bifida) reopened Kiln Theatre last June, to great acclaim.
I missed it for some boring reason to do with being flexifurloughed at the time. But as ‘Reasons You Should(n’t) Love Me’ returns for a lap of honour in front of a non-socially distanced audience, I’m happy to belatedly confirm that yes, it is very good.
A huge amount of this is down to Trigg herself. She’s an actor, as opposed to a stand-up (I’m aware this is an unfortunate choice of phrase for somebody in wheelchair), but she gives the impression she could easily be one: she has bags of energy and absolutely tremendous delivery, tossing off her punchlines in a mannered, Bet Lynch-style drawl that makes her sound about 40 years older and hilariously undercuts her more emotional or grandiose statements – the perfect defence mechanism.
The show nominally concerns somebody called Juno, not Amy: I think it’s safe to assume it’s broadly autobiographical, albeit with names and details changed to spare blushes. It follows Amy/Juno and the close circle of friends she’s had since school, tracing a lively youth that is dominated – but not defined – by her condition.
Non-chronological in order, the play begins with her in a clinic in her early twenties, struggling – with a mix of devastation and bemusement – to process the fact that she’s just been told that the numerous operations that defined her teenage years are starting to lose their effectiveness already. She’s 22 and her body is already falling apart. That doesn’t stop her from getting laid, though: her description of her tedious on/off shag Dan has a certain ‘Fleabag’-like quality, but is given undeniable piquancy by her explanation of how complicated sex is for her, and the extent to which Dan is terrible at remembering this.
If Trigg was able-bodied, and merely narrating a version of her life as a fun young woman facing up to the end of her twenties… it would still be a pretty good show, purely off the back of her performance. But what really makes it is the marriage of likeability, relatability and details of a life very different to most of ours. Usually she milks her condition for absurdist laughs; but as the show wears on she begins to address how difficult it’s been for her, especially as a lonely, miserable child. It’s poignant, and not just because of Amy/Juno’s struggles to come to terms with her condition: her best friend Mel is existentially unhappy and doesn’t know why, perhaps the more lost of the two of them. Trigg crafts a living, breathing world that derives heft from the fact that it’s not just about her, but her gang as a whole.
Structurally, Charlotte Bennett’s production goes pretty heavy on the old confessional monologue cliches: the trajectory from larky to serious is inevitable, the fleeting, cryptic mentions of a ‘list’ mean that inevitably we’re going to find out what the list is at the end.
But that’s all okay, and maybe even the point of ‘Reasons You Should(n’t) Love Me’. It’s a show that charms us with familiarity: after 90 minutes Trigg doesn’t feel like somebody other or exotic, but an old pal who we care deeply for.