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:
The Reality of Anorexia – b-eat (Beating Eating Disorders)
Eating Disorders Rising All Around the World – Eating Disorder Hope
Eating Disorders in Men - Guardian
When Beauty Obsession Becomes A Disease – Pacific Standard Magazine
Facebook Use and Poor Body Image - UNC Healthcare