Edinburgh Fringe 2016
“Imogene used to be sparkly, vivacious and outgoing. Recently, however, she has become withdrawn, gaunt and obsessed with exercise. The reason? Caol, her new best friend, who’s cast a dark shadow over Imogene’s life. Invisible to everyone except Imogene, Caol will not rest until Imogene has been reduced both emotionally and physically to a shadow of her former self. “Important issue brilliantly laid before your eyes.
Anorexia…the mysterious and misunderstood killer of an increasing number of girls and young women, is very much an issue of our day: and this is the mission of Sunday’s Child – to encourage the talking about issues that no one wants to talk about. Things that matter, whatever they may be. What exactly is Anorexia (and there are other related eating disorders)? How can we deal with it and, better still, prevent it taking hold in the first place? This play gives no answers: there aren’t any at the moment. This significant piece has been laid out before our eyes by Sunday’s Child in a drama in which there is humour and pathos. It is a first rate piece of new writing by Eva O’Connor.
Imogen, who is disappearing, is played most tellingly by Rosanne Lynch. It is a story which will resonate painfully with many a family afflicted with a daughter’s headlong plunge to self-starvation and death: deaf to all entreaty’s, all logic, all love and empathy. When the Serpent of Obsession, Caol, has invaded Imogen’s brain it will not let her go: would not let , does not let, anyone go. This is Imogen’s self-styled ‘best friend’ : Eva Clayre’s ingratiating, irresistible and worming Caol is stronger even than the natural instincts of young womanhood and slithers around her victim, always close at hand to convince Imogen whenever it looks as if appeals might actually be getting through to her. A superbly evil and convincing performance. More persuasive even than the increasingly desperate Mother’s special treats and loving empathy, though Caol always wins. Sinead Clancy’s motherly suffering is palpable.
This economically written play starts at the beginning and describes most subtly the journey Imogen’s little sister must travel: it begins ironically playing at silly, giggly worm game in the garden: sisterly heroine-worship begins with these games before worm games take a more serious turn: next we pass through the confusing years of adolescence, and the scales of awareness are slowly peeled from the eyes of the adoring little girl as Imogen’s diseased mind begins to expose itself to the child: final steps in the journey lead to the realisation that there is nothing to be done but await the final climax. The climax is not what we’re expecting: but the journey towards it is most touchingly and unsentimentally played by Anne O’Riordan. And then there is the boyfriend in Imogen’s life: accepting, gentle, humorous and unjudgemental: another very nicely judged characterisation. In fact a cast to die for.
Imogen’s illness is one of obsession, not logic: no answers are offered in O’Connor’s riveting play, no solutions, but it is clear that while the desire to be model-thin may play a part, it looks as though something in the brain must be at fault for the obsessive worm to take hold.
Less happy was the decision to use those clumsy eyesores of cubes to create a variety of locations: they took too long to shift, they looked heavy and uncomfortable to move, and their light colour was intrusive. Let’s face it, they achieved nothing that lighting would not have done better.
In spite of this comment, nothing should stop this very well written,well acted, and opportune play from taking the highest accolades in the Fringe.