Anorexia takes centre stage in this emotional piece devised by eating disorder sufferers and survivors. Bel is a typical teenage girl studying in the lower sixth. She excels at school and loves to gossip with her close group of gal pals. However, when anxieties force her to instil a gruelling diet and exercise plan for herself, Bel’s family and friends cannot ignore the damage this quest for ‘self-improvement’ is doing to her body.
We see different events that lower Bel’s self-esteem
The cast of this performance are consistently lively and animated, particularly in the opening of the show when they personify the sounds from Bel’s iPod. As the only male actor in the company, Asa Haynes provides great comic relief as he skilfully takes on a number of difference characters, from the librarian to the PE teacher. In her role as Bel, Ella McCallum is heart-breaking to witness. As the illness grips tighter and tighter, she staggers physically broken across the stage.
Without becoming too preachy, this performance manages to include aspects of the condition that may be unknown to those unfamiliar with it. For instance, there is no clear cut 'starting point’ to the anorexia and, in a series of short episodes, we see a number of different events that lower Bel’s self-esteem and body image. A sequence where she scrolls through Instagram with its bold offers of ‘fispiration’ powerfully demonstrates the way social media can provoke the illness. However, a scene afterwards detailing how this impacts Bel’s daily routine contains too many voices covering each other to the point where it loses intensity and becomes incomprehensible. In addition, scenes where the family struggles to understand Bel’s illness could last a little longer. It feels like they had been cut off from reaching their full emotional potential.
Tightrope Productions have creatively staged the experience of suffering from anorexia. This is a critically affecting performance that offers its audiences a chance to learn.