INTERVIEW: Rachel Stockdale | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Fat Chance, a one-woman play about fatphobia and class stigma, embarks on a UK tour this March and April. Writer and performer Rachel Stockdale explains her motivations behind creating the show and why it’s an especially poignant experience. “When people are talking, they still whisper the word ‘fat’ as if it’s a really bad word, when really it’s just a description. It’s been a really freeing journey to claim ownership of that word which takes its negative power away. However, despite the rise in the body positivity movement and fat activism, we’re still seeing an increasing number of people taking medications to lose weight regardless of the impact on their health. We’re still seeing actors winning awards for daring to wear a fat suit and be seen as ugly. I think it’s just as important than ever to have authentic fat representation on stage. Being confident and happy in my skin as a woman who is a size 18-20 is actually pretty radical.”

The show has been in development for a few years and seen sold-out preview performances at Live Theatre and a successful Edinburgh Fringe run. Both of which received passionate responses from audiences, with some declaring that they’d changed their outlook or behaviour since seeing the production. “Almost everyone has experienced changes in weight and being treated differently and I think that’s why the show felt very personal to so many. Following the show, people just wanted to talk about and share their stories, so this time we’re gonna do some fat activist chats to allow for this open discussion. Even if there’s only a couple of people who’ve seen the show who now aren’t dieting to fit in a wedding dress, I’ll take it.”

I think it’s just as important than ever to have authentic fat representation on stage. Being confident and happy in my skin as a woman who is a size 18-20 is actually pretty radical

The tour is in association with Northern Stage, where it premieres before heading to almost 20 locations across the UK. Rachel explains what she’s looking forward to about touring Fat Chance: “I’m excited to take the show into all these different spaces and also see if there’s any variation in how audiences respond. Across the tour I’m in some tiny studios, but also in Stage Two at Northern Stage and Middlesbrough Theatre which is massive – but I thought if I can do well in any venue, it’s got to be my hometown theatre.”

Rachel discusses the experience of developing the show, as the sole writer and performer: “It’s been really intense, especially as it’s like my real life story, but also quite cathartic, to recontextualize your own experiences and understand yourself a bit more.”

Fat Chance has a lot to offer to anyone who has been subject to societal expectations and a pressure to look a certain way, especially women. Rachel concludes: “I think anyone who has lost weight or gained weight and is being treated differently should come to see Fat Chance. I think anyone who contemplated going on a diet this January or did go on a diet should come. I think anyone that’s already sacked off the diet should come. Anyone who just feels that there’s too much brain space taken up thinking about calories, or weight, or dress sizes should come. Let’s just delete that fatphobia from our brains. To delete it from my own brain felt really refreshing and freeing and I just hope that I can do that for someone else.” 

Fat Chance is performed at Northern Stage, Newcastle (8th & 9th March); Gala Theatre, Durham (14th March); Darlington Hippodrome (26th March); Alnwick Playhouse (27th March); Middlesbrough Theatre (28th March); and Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham (10th April).


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