Smirnoff Underbelly, Edinburgh
August, 2004

Janey Godley is a fortysomething Glaswegian housewife with Attention Deficit Disorder. As a teenager, she ran a bar in Glasgow's tough East End, which she secured as a result of marrying a gangster with Asperger's syndrome. It's exactly the sort of wildly implausible character you'd expect to find someone cooking up on the Fringe. The thing is, Godley is all that.

The ADD business is plausible enough: ten minutes before the show begins, she's doling out free cola to the hot audience because, it seems, she has to be doing something; during her comedy set proper, she seems genuinely pleased when she gets back on track after a digression without needing us to remind her where she'd been. She mentions crimes in the casual way that suggests they too are real; one feels she'd be trying harder to make an impact if they were fictitious. Currently, she tells us, commissioned to write her autobiography, she keeps having to leave good stories out because they refer to unsolved incidents.

She has a mouth on her, to be sure: high-velocity and richly Anglo-Saxon is her style. It's not unlike the sensation of shock and delight, thirty years ago, of seeing very early Billy Connolly: she has the same combination of the earthy and engaging. It's possible, too, that being fêted by the middle classes would be as harmful to Godley's genuine flavour as it was to Connolly. But she deserves to be better known, and recognised as a talented comedian, not, in her own description of her manner, "an over-friendly cleaner".

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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