Bones of the spine jutting out like a stegosaurus, constant thoughts of food, worry of returning to vicious cycles of the past – this moving monologue calls us to step into the world of a woman struggling with eating disorders. With additional recordings from other characters, and a few simple props, this frank and insightful work is a testament to her daily struggles.
Anorexia nervosa has the highest fatality rate of any mental illness, yet so often is it dismissed as merely a teenage reaction to fashions. This work bucks that trend; it is a glimpse into inner thoughts and powerful compulsions. The story centres on a woman who's been taken back in by her parents, in an effort to help her as she oscillates between anorexia and bulimia, depression and mania.
Elpida Stathatou delivers an unrelenting and heartfelt performance. It's the personal touch – focusing on just one person's journey – which makes this piece so intense and moving. Little "testimonials", recorded as voice-overs, are gently scattered through the work, giving a nice rhythm to the piece and allowing the monologue to remain solely a personal account.
Deriving pleasure from the pain of hunger; the "progress" that brings new bones to just under the skin; the unwashed despair of binges in bed, and the constant smell of vomit from purges – the realities of this illness are starkly shown. Telling of her struggle with the slippery slopes and traps of recovery, and of the delusions that seem so real, this piece will ring true with anyone who has experience with this illness. Or for those who are unfamiliar, this show gives a very real insight: though by no means representative of everyone's experience, the very honest and personal style of the piece makes it evocative and accessible.
The staging sadly suffers from the layout of the room. With all the seating on the level, it is hard to see much of what is performed in the "bed" area. This is a shame, because the use of areas and level is so reflective of the character's mental state – but the front row blocks any action on the floor, leaving much of the audience excluded from very important scenes.
Stegosaurus tackles this difficult issue with humanising compassion. This work eloquently portrays a complex illness, capturing the all-encompassing nature of the illness and the struggle involved in trying to get better. But it isn't morbid or self pitying: the matter-of-fact delivery makes it enlightening, and you leave glad of the love and support she does have, even in the face of such odds.