Brighton Fringe 2016
Dave Chawner is a charming and very likeable person. It is his very aura that makes this show so absorbing, even as it makes you laugh at the unlaughable. He starts the hour by telling us this is a show about life and he asks us, “What does a 27 year old know about life? The answer is nothing.”
Male anorexia is rarely talked about although it is a serious ever-increasing condition in our image conscious society. People are very uncomfortable about discussing under-eating. Chawner has battled his anorexia for ten years and he says, “I’m not ashamed of it. This is about my struggle with my own identity.”
The purpose of his very honest and revealing show is to educate people about what anorexia is really like. Chawner discusses his obsession with exercise and weighing himself. “I would lock myself in my bedroom and weigh myself about five times a day.”
He was obsessed with calories and yet he literally put food on a pedestal, “I thought about it all the time.”
In the show, he explains that anorectics drink gallons of coffee to keep going and he drank so much he was hospitalized with caffeine overload. He goes on to say that being in a boarding school exacerbated his condition because he no longer could control the food he ate. The effects of under-eating are often unexpected and more far-reaching than just making you thin. “Anorexia makes you effeminate because you aren’t feeding your testosterone,” he says. “I became more androgynous as my sex drive diminished.”
He points out that suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 and 40. People with anorexia are depressed; they are subconsciously trying to kill themselves by starving themselves. Chawner battled his depression with therapy and anti-depressants. He learned that “sometimes your failures can be more of a mark of who you are than your successes. Being flawed is normal.”
This is a frank and often disturbing overview of just what an eating disorder does to the mind and the body. Many of Chawner’s remarks are amusing but under his banter is a somber countermelody that highlights the seriousness of an illness that is poorly understood and difficult to treat. People with eating disorders are trying to control the only thing they can have unilateral power over in a chaotic world: their bodies. Theirs is a misdirected sense of power that can lead to death if it is not properly addressed and treated. Normally Abnormal casts a light on an illness that few people even in the medical profession understand. You will leave this show with a better knowledgeof just how debilitating anorexia can be. It took a great deal of courage for Chawner to tell us his own experience so that we all can be aware of what an eating disorder can do to the body and the mind.