Lean

Tue 20th – Sat 24th January 2015

reviews

Tara Lee

at 10:21 on 21st Jan 2015

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Lean is a powerful, thought-provoking piece of drama about the psychological implications of anorexia. At times overwhelming, its unexpected humour and moments of intense tenderness make it a complex and brilliant production.

The acting was superb. Gabriel Cagan and Rose Reade were well-matched as they played out the anger, love, and guilt between Michael and Tessa. Finding that Michael has lapsed back into starving himself, Tessa threatens to starve herself until Michael starts eating again. This sets up the deadly game, the bitter one-upmanship which the play is structured on. In the first half of the play this makes for good dark humour, though it becomes much more serious as the play progresses. The conflict between the two stubborn characters certainly draws you in, which can become quite overwhelming in the intimate setting of the Corpus Playroom when the couple scream at each other, bringing up old ghosts. One cannot help but feel uncomfortably involved as one switches between supporting one character or the other, as both of them are flawed but trapped by their complicated emotions. As such the unexpected moments of humour and tenderness are much appreciated as they give the audience space to breathe.

Lean does something unusual in its subject matter, handling the sensitive issue of anorexia without using familiar (though valid) tropes of celebrity culture or body image. Instead, based on the playwright’s own relationship with a male anorexic, it focuses more on the deeply complex psychological aspect of anorexia as we find out more and more about the characters themselves. When the characters start talking about how their bodies feel as they starve themselves, or when Michael explains how superhuman, how transcendental he feels when he denies himself food, and even comparing it to drug addiction, what seems like another social issue in the newspaper becomes something intensely interesting and troubling. The play never gives anorexia one single explanation, instead, it presents anorexia both as a symptom and as an illness in itself, as a tool used to prove oneself or punish oneself, to gain attention, or even to provide a distraction.

The stark kitchen and the atmospheric snippets of music work well to supplement the tone of the play, and the latter in particular was used very well in conveying a sense of time. The play is well-structured, coming to a well-written climax full of tension and surprise. Though some parts of the plot were predictable, this hardly mattered as this play is so much more about character than plot. Merely an hour long, this play is well worth your time.

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