Review: Janey

Special London Screening then Tour For Janey Godley Documentary

My first encounter with Janey Godley was at the Edinburgh Fringe around 15 years ago. She was not onstage, she was at the door into her gig welcoming people in as if they were old friends. This is not typical stand-up behaviour, but then Janey Godley is not your typical stand-up. In a world dominated by men she is a quickwitted, garrulous Glaswegian woman who is not afraid to speak her mind. 

And she certainly has plenty to talk about in this fly-on-the-wall doc directed by John Archer and filmed around her recent 2023 Not Dead Yet tour following her stage 3 ovarian cancer diagnosis. Godley had a notable pandemic, going viral by doing comic voiceovers of Nicola Sturgeon's press conferences. But she also faced controversy over some offensive historic tweets that were dredged up and was then diagnosed with a life-threatening condition. Cancelled and cancer almost simultaneously. 

But, as we see, nothing really stops Godley, except maybe a hacking cough onstage when her equally redoubtable daughter Ashley has to step in while she regains her voice. Janey has always stood out. The film goes back to her past and has found some vivid footage of her caught on film mucking about on some Glasgow East End wasteland.

She has talked before about her turbulant past – such as being abused as a child – onstage and in her book Handstands in the Dark and, in truth she does not expand much on some areas here while other incidents are not mentioned at all, although she does revisit old haunts including the pub she used to run and she also, touchingly, returns to the scene of her mother's murder.

It's just that Godley has simply had too full a life to fit into a one-hour film. She is never far away from the headlines. For many she is most famous for holding up her Trump is A C**t sign when he visited Scotland. Even an extra 60 minutes would have probably only scratched the surface. But what we do get here, as well as welcome flashes of her humour, is a strong sense of her toughness, determined to keep gigging unless she is actually hospitalised. Or dead. 

Tour dates for film screenings here. Janey is also available on BBC iPlayer here


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