The Happiest Medium Review by guest contributors Anjali Koppal and Saurabh Paranjape
Craving, writer/performer Delphine Brooker’s one-act, one-woman play about her own battle with anorexia and bulimia, is a unique animal. Rather than indulging in the kind of pedantic damnation of outside societal influences that one expects, Brooker chooses to frame her narrative as a view into the inner thoughts of a bulimic girl after she has already made peace with the idea that being thin is what real beauty is all about. Thus we get some rather poignant, yet funny, anecdotes about the practical difficulties of maintaining a bulimic lifestyle in shared bathroom living situations and the bothersome battles with hunger pangs triggered by a stroll past a Parisian bakery.
Layered on top is also a coming of age story of a girl barely out of her teens getting a rude introduction to the real world as she travels to the Europe of her dreams and discovers more than her fair share of its seamier side. As a result, what could have turned into yet another exercise in pointless soapbox finger pointing turns into a striking, unflinching performance that presents the idea of ‘beauty’ in its ugliest form.
On the plus side, Brooker is an energetic presence, and the play benefits tremendously from her seemingly effortless grace on stage. The writing is sharp and economical, and for the most part the play has an honest feel to it, like being at a dinner party where a particularly gregarious guest is recounting a very engaging story. Brooker also makes surprisingly brilliant use of the single prop at her disposal, a sheer scarf, to transport us into everything from her bedroom to a night club to a beach. There are times when Brooker over-explains the setting though, for example, having pulled up a sheet and yawned, it seems unnecessary to say “It is now morning”. The show could really benefit from a fuller set, even if it is as plain as a white wall with images of the various settings projected onto it, so that we can concentrate on the story rather than having to sit through descriptions of the play’s various locations. The end also feels a little rushed, as Brooker’s recovery from anorexia is treated almost as a footnote. She admitted as much in the post-show Q&A, nothing that this was a common audience complaint at past shows as well, but that in her opinion the recovery ought to form the basis for a different play altogether. We hope she writes that play some day, and presents it as a companion piece to what is already a strong, hard hitting performance. Brooker also hinted that she would be interested in bringing this play to high schools across the country to help teenage girls understand the perils of a poor body image, and all we can say is ‘Amen to that’.
Writer: Delphine Brooker
Director: Doug Curtis and Heather Moore