Comedy triumphs over fear in anorexia drama

Mess by Caroline Horton, Warwick Arts Centre. On until Thursday (May 9). Box office: 024 7652 4524.

To sustain a joke about anorexia for over an hour is no mean feat. Caroline Horton and China Plate do it brilliantly, drawing the audience in to the fears and foibles of Josephine, who struggles with the illness.

The story is deceptively simple. Josephine (Caroline Horton) is a young woman at university. Prone to anxieties, she finds the only way she can get control over her fears is by managing her diet, thus altering her self-image. Her long suffering friend Boris (Hannah Boyd) can only look on as she determinedly wastes away.

Eventually she seeks medical help, at first unsuccessfully. Then she is admitted to hospital. Her recovery is slow and painful, and prone to relapses, but eventually she regains her appetite. A simple ice-cream on the beach is then not so much a reward as a badge of honour: she has come through.

Comedy has the power to cut terrors down to size, making the unfaceable faceable. Many of the laughs come from the strange Sistahl (Seirol Davies), who looks like Art Garfunkel (circa 1966) on acid. Seated at a piano, he provides musical accompaniment and amazing vocal sound effects that add a slap-stick quality to the show. This and the laconic wit of the two characters put Josephine’s illness in its place without ever trivialising it.

Perhaps the most remarkable achievement of the show is to make the audience believe how important not eating is to the person with anorexia - and why it matters so much to them.

Nick Le Mesurier

Related topics: