While not exactly the subtlest of plays, Eva O’Connor’s drama about a teenage Irish schoolgirl coping with anorexia is discreet in its handling of a sensitive subject. Particularly, O’Connor’s treatment of the condition itself as well as its injurious effects on immediate family and friends is finely balanced, let down only by its tendency for over-theatricality.
Imogene looks upon every opportunity as one in which to lose weight. Why is she putting herself through this, her sister asks? "This is just something I have to do," Imogene replies. The maturation of anorexia from a nervous habit into a more abstruse psycho-social condition, which becomes woven into the identity of the person is told with great care and impartiality in O’Connor’s text.
Imogene’s inner demon is literally represented by Caol, a Gollum-like creature who prowls around the stage speaking only in rhyming couplets about getting thinner after dinner. It’s an unfussy, direct approach to the issue but it doesn’t leave much room for audience intrigue or character development. The text instead relies on clunky clichés about how anorexia causes sufferers to become a “shadow of their former self” and even verges inadvertently into panto at times.
Despite this, theatre company Sunday’s Child are a very competent ensemble that perform here with unity and believability. Imogene’s life simply needs more colour, as we aren’t provided with enough context about her younger years and the beginnings of her illness, both of which would make her an ultimately more defined character.