Stegosaurus, Etcetera Theatre, London ★★★

Originally reviewed for The Reviews Hub:

The complicated psychological life of a woman with multiple eating disorders is explored in Greek playwright Ersi Niaoti’s one woman play Stegosaurus, receiving its English language premiere.

Elpida Stathatou plays a woman whose backstory remains frustratingly elusive throughout – references to being a divorcée at the age of 30 and having moved back with her parents pass by in a fleeting moment. Far more important to Stathatou’s character is her relationship with food.

Niaoti’s script makes clear that the woman swings from episodes of anorexia, where the full extent of her daily diet will be a few peanuts, to periods of bulimia, with extreme binge eating followed by vomiting in order to “cleanse”. The monologue recognises the fine line between illuminating the thought process of someone whose body issues drive them to extremes and actively promoting eating disorders. Niaoti and Stathatou together pull back the monologue from being a cheerleader for bulimia, by effectively portraying the delusion and pain inherent in the character.

What works less well is the character’s relationship with her therapist. While her flirting with him fits in with her self-destructive nature, the sexual relationship that develops seems to exist purely to add a level of provocative behaviour, rather than to contribute to an exploration of, or extension to, a complex character.

That the therapist’s point of view takes over, delivered as an uncredited voiceover, further steps us away from Stathatou’s character, unsatisfactorily turning her from subject to object. The voiceover technique is more successfully repeated with her nephew’s impression of his aunt, solidifying the reason for the play’s title. But even then, that plays into the piece’s biggest flaw – occasional heavy-handed repetition.

Niaoti’s play finds an ending that feels as if her character has achieved a restful pause, rather than a conclusion. That is, perhaps, a realistic conclusion for a one-act play about the life of an anorexic-bulimic woman, but it contributes to the sense of a piece that needs further work to support its commendable aims.

Runs until 19 February 2017.

Leave a Reply