Love Me Slender
By Vanessa Books
10-14 July 2018
Directed by Andrew Hamel-Cooke
Please note: this review is an abridged version to allow for brevity only.
“The piece, for a female only cast and written by a woman, is built around a slimming club which meets regularly in the back room or vestry of a church. We are introduced to the group, three of whom are longstanding “achievers” and three “newbies”, one at a time. This was a clever device which gave us a clear view of each character. The group was led by the iron-fisted, ruthless, brutal and entirely self-serving Siobhan.
Siobhan, played by Moyra Brookes, made a powerful first entry. She had a huge voice which seemed to sit around the falsetto range much of the time, was well projected and clearly articulated. The performance was well sustained and fluent, but perhaps a bit more variety in vocal power and pace would have made for a more impressive characterisation. Her tour de force was the penultimate scene where the power haircut, the figure-hugging dress, and harsh make-up were abandoned. We met here, an almost contrite figure who, to some degree, acknowledged the
harm she had done to those whom she purported to want to help. This was a HUGE role and Moyra is to be congratulated on her performance.
The first new member we met was Claudette (Cheryl Chamberlain). She wanted to be slim so that she could have another stab at finding a partner. She wanted, above all else, for her fatherless daughter to find her acceptable enough to spend some time with. This was a sound performance, well timed and communicated. She had a very expressive face and used her space well.
Next on the scene was Rosie (Laura Spalding). Rosie was Siobhan’s faithful helper. She was treated appallingly and was made to feel foolish about being in love with Laurence. In a cruel attempt to put Rosie off, Laurence was made out to be an “undesirable”. We later discovered that
Siobhan herself had been creating false information about him. This was a well placed and convincing performance and she caught our sympathy especially when she described that Laurence had brushed some ice-cream from her face. There was tremendous tenderness about this moment. Losing those last extra pounds, alas, had not brought her the joy of marriage she so desperately wanted.
Another of Siobhan’s helpers was Kelly, (Emily Ingold). She probably had fewer lines to speak than any others, but her body language and almost shuffling movement around the stage caught one’s attention, curiosity, and sympathy. There was something very wrong with her, but the group leader, who prided herself of understanding and having the best interests of her “girls” at heart, failed to spot or begin to understand, the problem. Kelly becomes the unexpected focus of the darkest moment of the play. Her next appearance was of a slightly more “together” person. She achieved the effect very well with few lines and not that much stage time.
Lucinda (Sarah Gage) was an already willowy, new class member with ambition…..ambition that she felt she could achieve by losing enough to slip through the gap left by two desks placed deliberately by her boss to be the measure of a girls’ most desirable behind! Her very high heels
and her draping of herself around the stage conveyed her extreme awareness, as she saw it, of the power of her body over the weakness of her gross but powerful boss. Her extreme shoes underlined her extreme femininity. Although her speech was clear and lines delivered without
hesitation, she might have created an even better impression by using a little more vocal variation and facial expression, but a good performance which presented a clear characterisation.
Celia (Susan Monteregge) was definitely the ‘hockey-sticks” character. She was bold, confident and had a very clear delivery. She made the most of her character from the very first moment. She seemed an unlikely character to go to a Slim for Life class, but we discovered later that the
reason was not so that she could go hiking with a friend. There was another quite unexpected reason.
Jean (Nikky Kirkup) was Siobhan”s great success. She was at target! What greater achievement could there be? Far from being free of the Slimming Club, she was persuaded to keep going and finding the money. Despite achieving all five of Siobhan’s tenets of successful slimming, she still lacks the confidence to be her own person. Finally, it was the suffocating worry about money matters and the decision, to be honest with her husband despite Siobhan’s advice, which finally saved her from disaster.
The fourth scene, immediately after the interval, was a very impressive if long scene. The mood changed from the frenetic, hectoring of the previous three scenes. It was a kind of denouement and was basically a huge monologue by Siobhan. The attention of the other actors as she spoke was hugely impressive, a real tribute to the speaker and the listeners.
This was a very difficult piece. The playwright seemed to want to say everything about everything, in one go. The underlying themes were myriad, including an unhealthy bitterness about men, greed, honesty and everything in between but the sensitive direction by Andrew Hamel-Cooke gave them all a voice. It was a huge undertaking for the author, actors, and director. It was very well done and a courageous production.
As always, the set, lighting, sound and costuming were highly professional and the wonderful team made for a very polished presentation.”