Fatty Fat Fat
Katie Greenall and Daisy Hale
The Other Room Theatre, Cardiff
Long-time British Theatre Guide readers will be aware that reviews which reference the physical appearance of performers and the characters they play can offend sensibilities. Fatty Fat Fat, though, as the uncompromising title suggests, is a play which focuses squarely on body image, although in a somewhat conflicted manner.
Fatty Fat Fat, which is part of the curated Spring Fringe season at The Other Room, was a success at the Vault and Edinburgh Festivals in 2019, and is at the beginning of a UK tour.
The show starts with writer-performer Katie Greenall dancing to "Cha Cha Slide", a popular tune which largely eluded my attention in the early 2000s. She is clad in figure-hugging exercise gear and performing on a pink dance-mat. Behind her is cartoonish body image art by Liberty Antonia Sadler; above her, silver balloons spell out the word "FAT".
She commences by discussing favourite "party bangers" with audience members, then segues into a tightly-scripted passage—one of several which form the spine of the show. In this case, playing the aforementioned DJ Casper song reminds her of receiving it as a gift on CD as a child, and her mother suggesting that it would be an excellent accompaniment to weight-loss exercises.
Throughout the hour-long show, directed by Madelaine Moore, Greenall flits back and forth through memories, often painful, of incidents during which her weight was referenced—in school, out on the town as a teenager, whilst discussing her ambitions as an actor with relatives.
Fatty Fat Fat is not a simple monologue, however. There are game-show elements involving the audience—during one, an audience member has to guess, for example, how many pencils Greenall can hold underneath a breast. There are lyrically voiced-over segments, during which she caresses her body, in an appreciative rather than a sexual manner (movement direction is by Rubyyy Jones).
She tells of the joy inherent in the experience of teaching a musical theatre class to young children who find her fleshiness reassuring. She struggles to pull on a pair of skinny jeans, to the accompaniment of "The Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy". She enlists the aid of a willing volunteer to play the part of a doctor who focuses on her weight, rather than the actual injury which has prompted her visit to the surgery.
Thus, while there is celebration and self-acceptance, Greenall also expresses dissatisfaction and pain, stemming from the reactions of others rather than self-loathing. As a gay woman, the attentions of men should perhaps be a matter of indifference to her; but negative comments still sting.
Fatty Fat Fat is part informal chat, part autobiographical performance piece and part polemic, with an element of party playlist (the songs from her childhood which weave into Anna Clock’s sound design are depressingly recent). It climaxes not with cathartic nudity (as was once apparently the plan), but an angry manifesto.
The absence of a simplistic "message" is probably a strength rather than a weakness; not unusually, Greenall's relationship with her weight is a complex one, and the show reflects this. The tone, however, is generally affirmative. And as well as food for thought, we are also furnished with actual snacks.
Reviewer: Othniel Smith