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

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Fat. Northern. Female. You can’t be all three.”

Having graduated from drama school after gaining a scholarship, Middlesbrough-born Rachel Stockdale was told this by a top agent, the truth of which was then borne out by her difficulty in finding roles.

Rachel hadn’t always been fat – a descriptor she uses with candour. By looking at her mother, Rachel knew she was predestined genetically to be fat. Heeding her mother’s warnings, she worked hard during her teens to stay a size eight by constant dieting and exercising. “It was exhausting,” Rachel explains, “to be constantly counting calories takes up so much head space, there’s not much room for anything else.” And to be honest, Rachel had an innate sense of confidence in her body and sexuality, whatever size she was. She didn’t have a problem with her weight. It was other people who did.

Whatever size you are, you’re always too fat for someone,” she continues, “the fat friend in a group, too fat for a casting director…it’s always all about how small you can make yourself.” And so Rachel embarked on a ten year journey to allow her body to take up the space it needed to and to be the person she needed to be. The lightbulb moment came on her honeymoon, when she was mistaken as pregnant by a waiter (her biggest fear) after having risked her health on a crash diet to fit into her wedding dress. She ranted to her husband that day. Long and hard. His response? You need to write this all down.

Rachel embarked on a ten year journey to allow her body to take up the space it needed to and to be the person she needed to be

She did. And that’s where not only the idea for her play, Fat Chance, was conceived, but also a liberation from all the brain power it takes to stay thin that set Rachel’s creative imagination free. Rachel is comfortable with who she is, that intersectionality of size and class that makes her almost unique in the industry. She’s “benefit class, below working class” as she describes it, from a single parent family in central Middlesbrough, in the top 1% of underprivileged areas in the UK.

Previewing at Live Theatre, Newcastle on Friday 22nd-Saturday 23rd July before heading up to Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Fat Chance is a funny, celebratory and politically powerful hour long one-woman play for anyone who’s put on weight or lost weight, anyone who had free school meals, anyone who’s tried to have it all – or anyone who’s known someone who has.

It’s a play for everyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in. A play for everyone then.

We all know someone who’s experienced what Rachel has experienced. Now is the time (way past the time) to shed a light on the stigma around class and fat phobia; to talk about it, and to address the prejudice.

As for Rachel, she’s done with what other people may think of how she appears and is enjoying how empowering that feels. “People need to stop commenting on other people’s bodies,” Rachel insists, “stop applauding others for being thin and judging others for being fat.” Brimming with confidence, writer and actress Rachel Stockdale is bringing Fat Chance to the stage four years after that initial lightbulb moment in the hope that others may too be set free from those comments about body image that affect us all.

Rachel Stockdale presents Fat Chance at Live Theatre on Friday 22nd-Saturday 23rd July.

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