EFR - Reviews of Eat Your Heart Out

Eat Your Heart Out

Sat 4th – Sun 26th August 2018

reviews

Ed Strang

at 22:09 on 8th Aug 2018

0agrees

2disagrees

Performed by actors who have all experienced eating disorders of some kind, ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ follows teenage protagonist Belle’s battle with anorexia. The topic of eating disorders and social pressures is ubiquitous at this year’s Fringe, but unfortunately this production is not one of the finer ones.

The opening scene sees all four actors on the stage at once, simultaneously narrating the scene. After an initial period of dumb confusion, I realised to my chagrin that this play was to be performed in the third person. As all playwrights know, writing in the third person is a dangerous road to take: unfortunately in this case, the gamble does not pay off. It is difficult to ascertain the reason for using it - was it supposed to add a degree of clinical uniformity to the production? - and I can’t help but think how much better the play would have been if performed like most.

My patience was further tested by the sudden outburst of beatboxing that accompanied an acapella rendition of Cardi B’s ‘Bodak Yellow’. Hugely superfluous, the stunt was neither funny nor impressive. Having set my disposition, I was not looking forward to the remainder of the play. Regrettably, my mood did not change throughout.

Eating disorders are of course a difficult topic to broach. Told from Belle’s perspective, ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ documents the pressures she feels from social media, her friends, and her self to fit in – to conform – a pressure that ultimately transfigures into her developing anorexia. However, there are never any truly emotional or harrowing scenes, never any bits that truly shone a light on the incredible mental strain that an eating disorder has on oneself and family. It was, in effect, lacking edge.

That said, there were a few moments that were well done. Belle’s friend once says of her “she looks fit - have you seen her thigh gap?” which is a perfect example of the type of off-hand comment that leads to self destructive behaviour. There is a nice moment as well when two of the actors mimic someone trying on clothes and their reflection in the mirror. These touches are, though, few and far between and cannot act as the play’s saving grace.

I found the characters grating, the comic moments cringeworthy, and the the production generally ineffective. I would have liked to see a more impactful play on the horrors of eating disorders, or alternatively a comic take on the matter, but the amalgamation of the two never quite pays off here. It is a noticeably amateur performance that pales in comparison to other hard-hitting shows of the same nature at the Fringe.

agree
disagree

Megan Luesley

at 22:50 on 8th Aug 2018

2agrees

0disagrees

I think I was in year 9 when we were all called into the school hall and told that a girl wouldn’t be back for a while due to an eating disorder. They were always those things that seemed to lurk in the background. Tightrope productions’ ‘Eat Your Heart Out’, devised by “eating disorder sufferers and survivors”, brings them into the foreground and lays the issue bare, both as an authentic exploration and a call for kindness.

It’s encouraging to know that these words came from people with experience, and the sensitivity in this production is striking, even if it’s sometimes close to the bone. It’s refreshing to see a piece subvert some of the misconceptions around the topic – take its frank depiction of male bulimia, an unfortunate truth when so often in media eating disorders are presented as a female issue. Writer Alastair Curtis takes these lessons from firsthand experiences and gives them a poignant, powerful voice.

This may all be heavy going, but ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ starts as a comedy, with its darker side creeping in slowly (like mental health issues so often do). The play opens with Bel (Ella McCallum) on the bus to school, a quickfire farcical blast from the past dominated by gossips and loud lads sitting at the back – you know the sort. At its start, the play could just be your regular teen sitcom. The show’s other three actors (Asa Haynes, Mia Georgis and Charlotte Dowding) create a quirky cast: Bel’s chatty friends Chantelle and Nicole, exaggeratedly Scottish PE teachers and fussy librarians, and they do it fantastically.

It’s all drenched in Sixth form nostalgia, jokes and pop culture references, and the comedy only makes Bel’s descent into anorexia that much more of a gut punch. Everyone involved is a talented comic actor, but they show their versatility too when necessary. Special mention goes to Haynes. While he takes hilarious comic turns modelling fitness products or singing the ukulele, his turn as Jordan, a classmate of Bel’s who leaves school due to bulimia early on, is particularly poignant and sympathetic.

Every individual performer is impeccable here, and director Philippa Lawford makes some smart decisions. For example, in one scene, Bel and Nicole lie in bed on their phones – shown to the audience by Haynes and Dowding holding pillows behind their heads so every expression is still visible. In some cases, it might have benefitted to use this trick more. In one scene I think Bel and not-quite-boyfriend Liam were up to something on the floor, but being sat near the back in a space with a shallow rake, I’m not entirely sure what it was.

‘Eat Your Heart Out’ is a play about anorexia, yes, but it’s also about recovery – about how it’s messy and difficult, particularly when the world seems trying to convince you you’re inadequate. Despite a few hitches with the staging, it’s a powerful piece, the kind of show you wish all teenagers could watch.

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disagree

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