(Spoiler alert: this review reveals plot details)
I’d never seen a play about anorexia before. Mess was good: it was moving at times; more often it was funny. At the very beginning, one of the three characters – Boris, who struggles to know how to be a friend to Josephine, who has anorexia – announced that there would be a short discussion session after the play, over tea and cake, and then stopped, realising that cake might be difficult for people, and then corrected himself to reassure us that don’t worry, it’d be Go Ahead biscuits, not cake. This was the first of many little things which struck that funny little nerve of total accuracy: for years and years, Go Ahead bars were my first food of the day, the immovable gateway between not-eating and eating. Probably I was drawn to them for just the same reasons lots of other anorexics are (in the UK, anyway): they’re fairly low in calories but quite substantial-feeling and very sweet, yet with a hint of healthiness from fruit and wheat bran, and the pairs of biscuits are individually wrapped so the rest stay inert and innocuous till you get to them. Nothing about anorexia and food is very surprising, but that banal predictability can itself still be a surprise, however many times it confronts you. Probably I’ll never stop learning about more little things that I thought were peculiar to me, and were in fact just standard: business as usual for anorexia in action.
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Emily T Troscianko
DPhil & Postdoctoral Researchers
Eating Disorders and Real-Life Reading