Opening up another world


Birmingham Rep Door


CAROLINE Horton provided a brave production of her autobiographical devised play ‘Mess' at the Birmingham Rep's Door as part of the BEDLAM festival of Mad Ideas, promoting mental health awareness through the creative arts.

A festival which sees a series of productions, workshops and other creative projects in a celebration to raise awareness of mental health in Birmingham and Solihull.

I am somewhat at a loss to start to review the issue of mental health, in this case anorexia, in a sensitive way. Having no experience of with mental health, I wondered if there was a right (or wrong) way to talk about my response to the show.  But then I began to think that there is no sensitive way to discuss this matter. 

Caroline Horton certainly challenges this fact. She gave an encouraging and insightful story into an unfamiliar world. It was an education.

Her production welcomes people with open arms, regarding everybody's personal history, empathising and standing beside those who have anorexia, and other obsessive behaviours, while telling those who have little or no knowledge of the disorders that it is ok to take a look into the mind of a person who has anorexia nervosa.

Education was only a small part of the essence of what Horton's play really set out to achieve. ‘Mess' is indeed thought provoking as Horton presents a whirlwind of incredible highs and lows that anorexia presents on a daily basis. Horton shouts out loud that underneath her incredible talent, there is still a small ‘elephant in the room', which she must contend with from day-to-day.

This three-man play, written by Horton and devised by the company, answers the questions that many are scared to ask, making this play so approachable for anyone to see. It voices the conscience of an anorexia sufferer through each of the characters.

First, we see Caroline herself, relaying the main story through the character of Josephine. As an audience, we travelled alongside Josephine as she takes us through her life's battles so far. Sometimes, we were made to hold her hand, as she openly revealed raw feelings with heartfelt monologues throughout the show.

One speech in particular was a mesmerising experience as Horton told us exactly how she felt as anorexia first began to take its hold, whilst standing on her podium of a fluffy oasis where no one could reach her.
Then we meet Boris, played by the gripping Emily Goddard. Boris is the voice of those who respond to anorexia. A close companion to Josephine, who, through no fault of his own, desperately attempts to ‘make her better.'

Goddard's emotionally-ranging talent shows that the effects of anorexia are not just to do with the victim, but concern all who are close to those who have the condition.
Lastly, we see Sistahl, a breath of fresh air provided by the ever comical Seiriol Davies. Sistahl, armed with a keyboard and microphone, gives us the backing track to the story. He is anorexia personified. The funny and creative qualities in which this character beholds makes ‘Mess' a unique experience, reflecting anorexia like never before. To 02-11-13

Elizabeth Halpin 


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