STAGE REVIEW: Fat Chance @ Live Theatre, Newcastle (22.07.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Rachel Stockdale is fat. This is what she leads with. It’s OK to say that. She says it herself. Because ‘fat’ is just a word, an adjective, before it becomes loaded with judgement and pity and whatever else society transforms that word into. Hopeful for change, Rachel looks to challenge the all-pervasive judgement of fat bodies in her new play Fat Chance. Rachel is here to be heard for herself and for all those out there subjected to fatphobia.

Fat Chance, a one-woman show written and performed by Rachel Stockdale, invites us to join Rachel on her red sofa in her living room as she explores how other people’s perceptions about her weight (and the inevitable constant dieting to make herself small enough) have dominated/ruined her life. Rachel’s moving story is almost entirely autobiographical, delivered in a raw and authentic way. There is no pretence. She’s sick of all the pretence. Dressed only in bra and knickers for most of the play, she lays herself bare to the audience, exploring the frustrations, disappointments, lack of self-worth and vulnerability that come from constant rejections following great auditions, simply because she is “benefit class, fat and Northern”.

Interacting seamlessly with a soundtrack of her partner Smelly and the voices inside her head, Rachel switches it up in this one-woman play by conversing with herself, directly with the audience and by addressing herself in the third person. The script is well considered, with changes of rhythm, dynamic and emotion, taking the audience on a roller coaster ride through the life and struggles of this incredibly stubborn (her words – and I would add ‘resourceful’) young woman, working out how to succeed with a career choice that sometimes feels more like self-harm than anything else. And yet Rachel feels completely at home on the stage, you can tell that. She lights up. The audition sequence shines a spotlight on her and she comes alive. The photos projected on the screen behind her reinforce how performing has always been the goal.

Juxtaposing sadness and laughter, Rachel’s story speaks to us all of how we look at ourselves and others, posing the question ‘Instead of trying to change you, why not try and see the beauty now?’

There is beauty in this performance. Like Rachel, let’s champion beauty and talent wherever we find them.

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