Daniella Isaacs’ autobiographical play ‘Hear Me Raw’ is an important, emotional and sharply clever exploration of the many disturbing layers of ‘wellness’ and ‘healthy’ living.
Isaacs begins the show by using sharp wit and satire to make pointed digs at the world of wellness. She perfectly captures, in deadpan humour, the complete lack of self-awareness of the bloggers she represents. She has constructed, with uncanny accuracy, that suspiciously ‘together’ person, the constant smile and unsolicited advice perfected.
Our protagonist starts as the embodiment of the health bloggers and presenters we all recognise, but the fragility of such characters quickly becomes clear. Throughout the play we witness a gradual descent into a mental state which is anything but healthy. As the show progresses she portrays, bravely and without filter, the serious mental illnesses that restrictive eating can lead to. Isaacs moves convincingly from portraying the perfect Instragram stars we are told to believe in, to the out of control and dark reality that lies behind the edited photos. The brilliant acting and clever writing this requires seem effortless to her.
Her own ability is complimented by the audio and visuals which guide us through her head in new and inventive ways. Her jars of food become the compulsive, anxiety driven voices in her head each time she opens one. They represent effectively the all-consuming nature of the eating disorder she portrays.
There is no avoiding the difficult, ugly parts of mental illness in this play; it is remarkably honest in its portrayal of the selfish behaviour it can bring about. The one woman format highlighting the complete isolation often felt by those suffering from such mental illnesses, and the disembodied voices of her family suggest her disconnection from those closest to her. Isaacs doesn’t shy away from making parts of the show uncomfortable to watch. We learn that the reality of ‘clean’ eating and its effect on mental health is incredibly messy. It is a welcome change, and relief, to see a portrayal of mental illness that refuses to romanticise.
The play moves from sharp and funny to life affirming within the hour it takes up. It is a clever satire and important message about an illness so fuelled by popular culture and social media that it is rarely challenged. Isaacs has achieved something completely original, and entirely brilliant.
Hear Me Raw is playing at Underbelly George Square until August 27.