As Overshadowed opens, the chilling sound of hospital monitors beeping is one that immediately stirs feelings of dread in those who know someone who has suffered from an eating disorder. As Imogene stands centre-stage, staring wide-eyed up to the audience, her fragile state prepares us for the story she is about to tell. Throughout her fragmented monologue, Imogene stresses how she “used to” be someone else. As the play progresses, we too recognise the changes in Imogene, as we see go from being an outgoing, happy young girl doing her worm on the kitchen floor, to cutting class and doing excessive exercise, her skipping rope being the whip that slowly breaks down her relationships with loved ones.
The delicate issue of eating disorders, its symptoms and effect on others is respectfully explored in Sunday’s Child’s production. The progression of Imogene’s disease, as her suffers from fainting spells and loses her period, is not-so-much shoved in the audience’s face, but instead subtly referenced to, brushed aside by Imogene as if unimportant. What is stressed, however, is how eating disorders affect the mind. The idea that those who suffer from Anorexia are not in control, instead overpowered by a monstrous disease, is one that is cleverly personified in the character of Caol. Her alien appearance and manner on stage is intimidating, and her manipulative nature as “starvation’s aid” is magnified by the use of lighting, where we see her monstrous figure (literally and figuratively) overshadowing Imogene. Her oppressive nature is paramount, and Imogene’s struggle to choose between her old self and the Imogene that Caol wishes her to be allows the audience to see a tortured soul, isolated and slowly self-destructing.
However, while this representation of anorexia is a clever one, there is something that doesn’t quite work. This is not to say that there is something wrong with the acting (Roseanne Lynch and Eva O’Connor work brilliantly together); instead, the issue seems to lurk in the play’s structure. The menacing creature that Caol is ends up being trivialised by the fact that all of her lines are written in verse. This frequent lyricism, while on paper is clever, takes away from the fact that eating disorders are a serious problem; in fact, it almost makes it seem like her disorder is no more than a fanciful game). Consequently, the play left me wondering ‘What if…?’ regarding different approaches, which potentially could have resulted in this production having a stronger impact on the audience.
That said, the rest of the script is strong, and the actors excel with the material that they have been given. Roseanne Lynch is wonderful as Imogene, giving a vulnerable and deeply convincing performance. Her conversations with Eamonn (another outsider, and her only friend) and Tara feel natural; the chemistry between Lynch and Anne O’Riordan’s Tara makes their scenes together very enjoyable to watch: it also means that you really feel for Tara as Imogene begins to push her away. While Imogene’s story may be the focus of the show, there are moments that allow the rest of the cast to shine also; the class presentation given by O’Riordan about her sister’s illness is a powerful and ingenious way to present Tara’s perspective. The script shines again with its unexpected climax, bringing us back to the opening moments of the play, and also leaving us with an ambiguous ending, that gives the audience food for thought.
A tough subject tackled very well, Sunday’s Child Overshadowed is a thought-provoking piece of theatre exploring the effects of eating disorders on the individual and those around them. The play’s faults lie not in the actors’ performances on stage, but instead creative decisions made offstage.
Assembly Roxy, 13.20, 25-29 August
Tickets available at:https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/overshadowed
Photo taken during production