CW: eating disorders
Bel Jones is about to turn eighteen when her life is upended by an increasingly problematic calorie limitation. She lives a happy life with her two best friends – the lively and confident Chantelle, and the ‘she thinks she’s cool but she’s not’ Nicole – albeit all with the typical insecurities associated with adolescence. These worries gradually spiral into self-destructive behaviour as Bel starts following #cleaneating gurus on Instagram and designing ‘5-bites-per-meal’ diet plans.
The play accurately depicts the slow and gradual development of an eating disorder, and the difficulty of assessing in retrospect its initial trigger or when it all started. Written in collaboration with a team of eating disorder survivors, this play manages to strike a perfect balance between accurately expressing the dark thoughts and feelings underlying eating disorders, and using humour to highlight the characters’ individual personalities. But in addition to this, Eat Your Heart Out is also just a heart-warming account of life as any teenager and all the insecurity and social awkwardness that comes with being one. This is epitomised by a hilarious scene in a bike shed, in which Bel’s self-absorbed flirtation Liam desperately tries to take off her bra, and after nearly putting her in an accidental head-lock, exclaims ‘that was hot!’.
Ella McCallum charismatically plays the vulnerable Bel who continuously strives for perfection in school as well as in looks. The three supporting actors work together seemingly effortlessly to create a complex and energetic world, smoothly transitioning between multiple characters and scenes. The ensemble’s use of musical instruments, singing and simple props helped the audience visualise the many different locations in which the story unfolds itself.
At this point it is worth highlighting Alastair Curtis’ excellent writing, which enabled the audience to be completely transported to a new world – all through the use of pop culture references, clever interjections and well-developed comic characters. However, the use of story-telling in the third person, whilst original and often poetic, sometimes stopped the audience from being able to properly engage with the story or empathise with Bel. The only moment we are really made to feel Bel’s pain deeply is when she forces herself to face her fears; she looks at her reflection in a mirror, and, for the first time in the story, breaks down crying. But all in all, this play adopts an especially elegant, light-hearted and considerate manner in which to open up the discussion on eating disorders and break the silence that often surrounds them.