Tightrope Theatre’s Eat Your Heart Out focuses on seventeen year old Bel Jones (played by Ella McCallum), a bright and highly sociable sixth former who begins to struggle with an eating disorder. The show presents us with snippets of Bel’s everyday life, supported by the multi-rolling trio of Asa Haynes, Charlotte Dowding and Mia Georgis, who take on the various characters she interacts with.
Asa Haynes provides great comedy, shouting fiercely as the Scottish P.E. teacher and holding his glasses on the edge of his nose whilst shushing as the librarian. Charlotte Dowding provides a particularly emotional response during the scene where Bel is being diagnosed by the doctor. The starring moment perhaps, and certainly the most poignant, is as McCallum looks at her body in the mirror, describes the fat that she thinks she’s putting on, and breaks down into tears. Her lip quivers, and in a sudden moment her eyes and face become watery. We feel for her. We see her pain, as the fourth wall acts as the mirror reflecting back at her.
The pacing feels a bit off at times: a vibrant energy from the cast pulls us straight into the story, as the opening of the show sets the context of the characters’ lives. Whilst openings often tend to be too slow, this one speeds by almost too quickly, so we’re left in a bit of a confusing web of facts and relationships which makes the piece a little hard to settle into. The group have chosen to tell this story using archetypal characters, giving it an almost theatre-in-education quality, which might undermine the theme of the piece a little.
Then there are elements which bring some theatrical joy to the show: the playing of the recorder and ukulele (even though the latter seems a little distracted); the sound effects of the vibrating phones, which the actors make from behind; the synchronised exercise class and stretches, giving the show some tightly choreographed movements; the motif of the Smartie chocolate, which brings the piece together at the end with a sense of closure for Bel.
There are some really lovely moments in this show. The performances are delivered with sensitivity and confidence, and all four actors speak with clarity and precision throughout. It’s just a rather broad exploration of the topic in the middle of it all, and zooming in on a smaller incident or moment in the protagonist’s struggle might allow for a slightly more nuanced take on this complex issue.
Eat Your Heart Out is playing at the Paradise in Augustine’s until 26 August 2018. For more information and tickets, click here.