‘Detox’ // Anywhere Festival

‘Detox’ was nurturing.

We have all heard the phrase, ‘you are what you eat’, but what happens when we don’t give our body what it needs? What happens when we let society decide how we take care of ourselves?

Created by Sophie Heather and Tish Bourke, ‘Detox’ is an influential and fresh piece of verbatim theatre that explores the construction of the female identity through societal pressures and body shaming, whilst also being laugh out loud funny. Through a combination of real-life stories, and interwoven plotlines, the performance is a powerful representation of today’s diet culture, and the unattainable realities of ‘the perfect body’. Throughout the performance, the protagonist, Genie, played by Tyra Pohlman, repeatedly questions her appearance and is prepared to do what it takes to achieve her desired body. Even if she must remain on an impossible diet and exercise regime.

From the beginning, ‘Detox’ instantly appeals to me. Verbatim stories surrounding weight, diets and influential online ‘professionals’ weave effortlessly in between a narrative concerning self-esteem and feminism. By combining the glamour of celebrity influence with the psychological torment of diet culture, this performance is a meaningful representation of today’s mental health crisis and one which is universally relatable. Presented as part of Anywhere Festival, the performance is minimalistic, yet extremely captivating. It is also rather ironic that a performance about restricted eating is set in an old restaurant.

Directed by Heather and Bourke, the space and stage projections were used admirably. The directorial team had a firm grasp on the play’s mental health concepts and were unafraid to push the limits of humour relating to diet culture. With the use of stage projections, the performance perfectly encapsulated the overbearing, visual weight of social media ‘health professionals’ and weight loss adverts. While the projections were captivating and humorous, they were also used as a sinister reminder of reality. This technical aspect was highly effective in emphasising the overall message of the performance.

The cast’s performances in ‘Detox’ were powerful and shockingly relatable to many. Tyra Pohlman, as Genie, delivered a strong performance as a woman struggling with disordered eating and the influence of social media. Her lively stage persona and intricate character development forced the audience to sympathise with her and encouraged us to reflect on our own diet culture. Macarra Berthaly-Martyn, as Genie’s roommate and ensemble member, played a passionate role throughout the play and beautifully aided the play’s ‘call to action’ message. Téa Gross, as Genie’s friend and ensemble member, was clever in her ability to make the audience both laugh and cringe at her character. Gross was the comic relief the audience needed. Sophie Heather, as the devil on Genie’s shoulder, delivered an intimidating performance. While her physical persona was sweet, her callous words drove the drama of the play.

Rounding out the performance were the screen actors; Freya Crema, Nat Johnston, Ashlee McCreanor, Trudie Cross, Chiang Faye Marvin, and Amy Callaghan. Playing parts in the show’s projected advertisements, the screened cast were humorous and lively in their performances. Their screen presence was creative and balanced the show.

This hour-long performance is an effective and calculated takedown of diet culture and encourages the audience to step away from social influence and enjoy their bodies – the bodies that support them, nurture them, and carry them through each day. While the journey of self-love is categorically different for different people, it is the hope that one day, Genie’s dream might become a reality. Someday, women will be able to appreciate themselves free from outside influence.

‘Detox’ performed until May 21st, 2022 at Old Jojo’s Restaurant. For more information visit the Anywhere Festival website.

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