EFR - Reviews of A Body to Die[t] For

A Body to Die[t] For

Wed 31st July – Mon 26th August 2013

reviews

Suzanne Duffy

at 04:46 on 18th Aug 2013

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In a musical supposedly about body dissatisfaction the jumble of issues from homelessness to sexual assault became so overwhelming that whatever message the production was trying to convey was completely lost. Three actors of varying weights portray the protagonist Greta (Nicola Kill, Rosie Watson and Grace Bishop), a gimmick which confuses the already nonsensical plot of the play.

Writers Tim Anfilogoff and Alan Whittaker (responsible for such inspired lines as “I am Fay/ I will show her the way”) have created in Fay (Annie Kirkman) a bizarre character, mainly because it is unclear whether she is supposed to be taken seriously as a feminist, or is being mocked as a parody of feminism. She is in some ways Greta’s guide and advocates the work of the “Body Liberationists” but is really a jumble of preconceptions and myths about feminism, a “white witch” whose relationship with an Austrian woman is described as “internationally bisexual.” This send-up of the sexual revolution leaves a bitter taste in the mouth as it is merely catty rather than clever. Kirkman plays the role in such an overbearingly sexual manner that the character becomes a caricature rather than a complex woman.

There is an attempt at political exploration of the issue of obesity in ‘Simply Slim’ in which capitalism is blamed for women’s body woes. Yet the other political plotline involving the minister for obesity (Will Mulvey) and some terrorists blowing up thin people knocks on the head a concept which might have had some real potential.

Greta’s friend Tony (Sam Turrell) derides her for reading glossy magazines, saying “you think you’re a feminist?” In several instances he tries to restrict Greta’s right to choose for herself seems to be held up as some kind of ideal, despite there being no chemistry between him and any of the actors who play Greta.

If the musical is trying to be didactic, it needs to be more consistent, and if it is not then it needs, at least, to be funny. As it stands neither is true and ‘A Body To Die(t) For’ is stuck in a limbo, trying to confront issues which it does not deal with intelligently and making the high point of its humour some truly awful pussy jokes.

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Hazel Rowland

at 08:59 on 18th Aug 2013

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There is no question ‘A Body to Die(t) For’ is a ridiculous show. The musical follows the story of Greta, who transforms from being medium to thin, thin to fat, and back to medium again. The show advertises itself as tackling issues surrounding body-image, the media and politics, but what it is really about is a matter of some confusion.

Although the story-line is not meant to be wholly realistic (a pill that makes a thin person fat overnight makes that clear), this does not excuse the fact that it is very difficult to make sense of the plot; so many questions are left hanging. For example, when Greta’s father attempts to molest her, one asks why he even does this in the first place? And why does this cause Greta to leave home and lose weight? It implies the sexual abuse is the only reason because the musical barely spends any time on it, therefore hugely oversimplifying it. Perhaps it was so that the show does not become too serious, but ultimately issues surrounding self-image and weight are serious.

For a musical lasting one hour, there is just too much going on, with many events failing to serve any function. The ‘La-di-das’, an anti-body and overweight terrorist group are meant to be funny, but they come across as bizarre, since I cannot fathom what their joke might actually be. At least the production is slick, revealing that the incoherent plot is due entirely to the script.

Tim Anfilogoff’s music remedies the show somewhat. The singing is generally of a high standard, although sometimes the actors are closer to talking than singing. Having live musicians on stage helps add a certain punch to the songs too. The lyrics occasionally have a depth not seen elsewhere in the play, such as when Nicola Kill, Rosie Watson and Grace Bishop (the three different-sized Gretas) sing "why should we all conform."

Trapped between having a message and being funny ‘A Body to Die(t) For’ achieves neither. Although it is meant to be comic, (which it mostly fails in doing anyway) it still could have treated the issues surround body-image more sensitively. Instead the musical sends mixed messages, making it confusing and tedious to watch.

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