Journalist and author Mathilda Gregory presents How to be Fat, a solo show that is part stand-up, part storytelling, and an all honest account of what it is like to be fat in a culture that reviles and ridicules fatness, even to the point where it pretends it doesn’t exist. “I know I’m fat,” she says. “But I’m not supposed to tell you.”
Gregory does an impeccable job of weaving hard-hitting truths with pithy criticisms and dagger-sharp punch lines. Deftly, she combines laugh-out-loud one-liners, witty anecdotes and frank observations about the obesity taboo, the thin ideal and how this affects who doesn’t, can’t or won’t conform to it.
Roughly halfway through the show, just as we are becoming comfortable with Gregory’s signature brand of cynical comedy, it takes a sudden but not wholly unexpected swerve. Gregory is brutal in her takedown of a patriarchal culture that values thinness, especially in women, but perhaps more poignantly, is brutally honest in explaining her personal relationship to that culture. When she says “I’m OK with my fat body” for the first time, we believe her. But when she says it for the twentieth time, each utterance slightly more manic, we realise the insidious nature of cultural beauty. It’s easy to say that weight is just a number, but for most people living in the West today, it’s harder to truly believe it.
Gregory squeezes a lot into this hour-long show: How to be Fat comments on everything from bodies to cultural beauty via gender and greed; it is also a deeply touching personal narrative that at times leaves the audience gobsmacked. Its tagline “A show for anyone who has a body” is apt: Gregory’s show will resonate with anyone who has ever questioned the arbitrary aesthetic ideals that our culture values as achievements. Whether we are fat, thin or in-between, it will prompt us to reconsider our assumptions about fat people and the connotations we assign to the word ‘fat’, sometimes without even realising.
Funny, feminist and unfettered, How to be Fat is well worth a watch.
How to be Fat played at The Marlborough as part of Brighton Fringe. For more information, see the Brighton Fringe website.