Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Stegosaurus, by Greek playwright Ersi Niaoti, explores the emotional and physical damage that eating disorders cause and the impact of depression. But it’s also about the resilience of the human spirit and the complexities of negotiating modern life.
Stegosaurus is a solo piece that presents one young woman’s story of eating disorders from within, from the bedroom of her parent’s house. We meet a woman who swears she will do anything to make herself better, each morning brings an announcement that today she is better, today she will be able to eat a little breakfast. But the eating disorders are an addiction and she is soon dragged back into a spiral of self-destruction cycling between anorexia, bulimia and casual sex; apparently chaotic, but for her the route to control over her life – the empty stomach, the cleansing that she craves that she believes will achieve purity . However, it isn’t entirely dark or without hope; Ersi Niaoti is writing based on her own experience and there are frequent moments of humour, of wry observations of society or self-deprecating humour as well as an ultimately hopeful message about the value of family and support. At the same time as an autobiographical piece it struggles a little with the challenge facing verbatim and autobiographical work; how to create and show a dramatic arc, a journey for the character. The unnamed woman details her daily life and events, which, although becoming more chaotic seem outside her rather than changing her, until near the end when there is a moment of reconciliation with her mother.
The play, originally 90 minutes, has been translated by the company. Greek actor Elpida Stathatou, making her Edinburgh debut, provides a strong and vibrant performance. She is confident with the material and working in a tiny space manages to create not only her bedroom but a supermarket, the doctor’s office, a bar and encounters with men who provide the sex that helps her forget, just for a moment. The tiny stage with minimal set and props as well as the compact auditorium create a space in which Stathatou holds us with the story.
There is potential for this piece to develop further; the full script is 90 minutes and Stathatou has edited it to 60 for the Fringe so exploring different edits as well as seeing the full script would be interesting. There is also scope for director, Joe Hufton, to bring out more of the journey as there are turning points where she makes choices or things happen to her that could provide stronger beats. And there is as yet unmined depths to the script, the control and brittleness that young women with an eating disorder often display could be developed.
Overall, this is a powerful play with insights into the experience and world of women with eating disorders that is well worth seeing.