Theatre 503 is an extremely intriguing and well put-together pub theatre. They have playtexts for just £3.50 and an above-average theatre space. They often hold Sunday shows which are ‘Pay-What-You-Feel’ and the whole set-up is extremely welcoming to young or emerging artists. It stands to reason then that they would run a piece based around anorexia. Around 1 in a 100 young people between the ages of 10-20 suffer from Anorexia each year.
‘Overshadowed’ follows 17 year old Imogene (Roseanna Lynch) as she battles with anorexia. Her loving family become aware that she is a shadow of her self when the grim Caol (Eva O’Connor) comes to visit her. She is a personification of anorexia, a ‘puck-like’ character which speaks her thoughts and feelings in rhyme. It seems she is manipulating and convincing Imogene all the time – she constantly lurks and clings to her whilst commenting on the action.
Imogene meets Eamonn (Adam Devereux) outside of school and they connect by talking about their troubles. Whilst her mother (Sinead Clancy) and sister (Maeve O’Sullivan) constantly worry about her and try to address the issue. Her mother phones her father to try get her into hospital, but sister Tara gets caught up in the fray and gets run over by a car outside their house. Imogene regains clarity from the incident and confronts Eamonn about her problems, saying she intends to get better.
The figment of her imagination as a creature, was cunning and a clever story telling technique. O’Connor moved with grace and conviction, her face twisted in disdain. Devereux was a standout as the epitomy of misunderstood young boys – his energy and quick wit made for big laughs in their scenes. Whilst O’Sullivan gave a touching and truthful performance showing us a promising young actress.
There was a hint of where anorexia comes from – her mum is always on a diet, which is said to be the biggest influence on our perceptions of ourselves. Imogene also expounded her sadness about her parents divorce. However closer examination should have, I believe, come to modern culture and the world outside of them.
The play lost drive throughout due to the lack of character motivations and action. Whilst the scene changes were jittery and long, pausing the action far too often. Usually an anorexic has no concept of their unwellness; they hide and sneak around so they are unrecognisable even to those closest to them. Sister Tara and her mum were very much aware from the get go, and this left little room for development of the disease and the havoc it slowly creates within a family.
A more accurate representation would have been for Imogene to disappear completely and be replaced by Caol. Anorexia was the forefront of every scene, with that comes little subtext for the audience to reveal, as well as the subject becoming a little tiresome. Nevertheless the relationships with the family and Eamonn were magical, very vivid and genuine. Each scene was new and interesting, whilst we saw what subject Caol would infect next.
Anorexia is a big subject, like many mental health diseases it can’t be pinpointed, and I guess I felt uncomfortable because people don’t easily broach subjects like that. I think one of the only mainstream perceptions of Anorexia I’ve seen is ‘Cassie’ in Skins. I appreciate the effort to find a way to unveil the subtext of such an issue. And by showcasing a beauty of youthful talent, it felt more relatable.
I wish more people attempted to bring this subject to the forefront of our conversations, but I can see why a lot of playwrights wouldn’t attempt it. Therefore kudos to the brilliant O’Conner for showing us a personification of the conversations which might happen in an anorexics head. Overall, the piece was well done and gave a thought-provoking insight into anorexia.
Overshadowed is playing Theatre 503 until 16 January. For more information and tickets, see Theatre 503 website.