EATING DISORDERS

Stegosaurus // ES Productions

The breadth of shows engaging with eating disorders at the Fringe in 2017 reflects the rising rate of admissions and treatment for anorexia, bulimia and newer, less clinically defined conditions. Presenting her story through a simply illustrated and focused monologue, Ersi Niaoti documents obsessive bingeing, harsh denial and destructive behaviours and their impact on her life. Tiny moments reinforce the everyday reality of conditions like these - a long pour of coke into a bucket like the sound of a purge, and the flick of a lighter an obsessive distraction. Her performance recounts a story familiar from several other shows, the continual denial of her own body’s needs and a warped sense of her own health and attractiveness. It focuses on bodily detail, on the bile and liquor of the condition, rendered in sharp language. She describes her personal climate as arctic and her visible bones as her jewellery. The bony ridges of an emaciated frame give the piece its name, a child’s observation on the changes in a loved one’s body.

The rise in eating disorders, amongst men as well as women, has been linked to the continual comparison engine of social media and shifts in popular culture. Obsessive gym going, personal grooming, and the obsession of taking the always best-facing picture perpetuate and reinforce a culture the encourages unfavourable measurement of your worst against the best of others. Clean eating, thinspiration and Tumblr goals lead more and more to a culture like that referred to in Professor Renee Englen’s psychological research as ‘beauty sick’. And whilst there are no simple answers to public health crises, continual comparison distorts perception. To observe something is to influence it, a continual pressure to change your body in the hope of better results.

Niaoti’s monologue focuses on her very personal experience of anorexia, bulimia and depression, but whilst the metaphor and language of Stegosaurus is affective in its subjectivity, the experience it documents is an increasingly familiar story.

-       Lewis Church

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Stegosaurus

The Reality of Anorexia – b-eat (Beating Eating Disorders)

NHS Digital - Eating Disorder Admissions

Eating Disorders Rising All Around the WorldEating Disorder Hope 

Eating Disorders in Men - Guardian

When Beauty Obsession Becomes A Disease – Pacific Standard Magazine

Facebook Use and Poor Body Image - UNC Healthcare

Hear Me Raw // LipSink Theatre

Hear Me Raw dissects the culture of ‘clean eating’ through a semi-fictionalised monologue based in the personal experience of its performer. Questioning the logic of whether raw smoothies and matcha provide any real solution to deeper emotional problems, Daniella Isaacs blends her real story of acute anxiety and distress with an imagined identity as a food blogger. As ‘Green Girl’, Isaacs evangelises about the need to remove dairy from your diet, replace caffeine and deny sugar, with all the zealotry of a convert. But the stability of this identity is disrupted by the interventions of concern from family, friends and clinical professionals. Isaacs’ clean eating obsession, watched over by the sinister figure of now-disgraced prophet Belle Gibson, grows into a recipe for distress, a diagnosis of Orthorexia Nervosa, and a familial rift.

Alongside its expose of the sometimes-worrying orthodoxy of clean eating adherents, and the modern obsession with demonstrable ‘wellness’, Hear Me Raw also reveals more general problems. Isaacs, graduating from drama school at the start of her story, embodies the anxieties of the modern twenty-something, particularly in the industries of theatre and performance. Her bullshit job typing up casting calls for ‘hot ex-girlfriends’ is a clear reference to the pressures of conforming to industry ideals, and to the unrealistic expectations for young performers that stifle the industry. Encouragingly, there seems to today be a greater awareness of the importance of diverse bodies in theatre, film and television, and a slowly building intolerance for retrograde casting practices. Here a young actor discusses the gulf between her expectation of fame and success and the realities of trying to get there, within the frame of a show that itself gestures towards that same frustrated expectation.

Isaacs suggests at the close that she had previously promised never to make an autobiographical show. Hear Me Raw is defiantly autobiographical, and is at its best when it abandons ‘acting’ in favour of personal testimony. Its central performance is not a dramatic role, but a sharing of a personal story, and a repudiation of the pressures that provoke the quarterlife crisis. 

- Lewis Church

This diagnosis is based on a preview performance at Hackney Showroom, London. Hear Me Raw runs throughout the Fringe at Underbelly George Square.

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Hear Me Raw

Orthorexia Nervosa

“Clean eating” How good is it for you?BBC News

Belle Gibson Court CaseGuardian

The Quarterlife Crisis - Guardian

Lady Parts (Sexist Casting Calls)

Drama Graduates One Year OnThe Stage

WHEN I FEEL LIKE CRAP I GOOGLE KIM KARDASHIAN FAT / Mighty Heart

WHEN I FEEL LIKE CRAP I GOOGLE KIM KARDASHIAN FAT / Mighty Heart

The two elderly women whose voices are heard in Mighty Heart Theatre's When I Feel Like Crap I Google Kim Kardashian Fat speak of the past with a glow, as a time when women felt less media and social pressure to conform to a particular look or body image.