The Fat Girl Gets a Haircut and Other Stories
Roundhouse, London, until 7 May
A young couple enact the primal erotic drama of hunter and hunted, boy, girl and apple. A Muslim boy loves bacon sandwiches and wants to give up his religion, but doesn’t know how to tell his father. Wherever he looks, he finds himself surrounded by pigs.
A girl remembers how she made a paper daffodil for her dying mother and looks through family photographs: “This is one of my Mum and Dad’s wedding. She won’t be at my wedding.” Another recalls the terrible embarrassment of having a crush on two of her teachers and, perhaps even worse, what it’s like to have friends who seem to fancy your father. A boy reveals his passion for Lady Gaga and long-term desire to become a burlesque dancer.
Eleven young performers recreate 11 personal stories in this remarkable example of participatory, community-based theatre - the title refers to the “fat girl”, or scapegoat, likely to be found in most groups of teenagers.
When the call went out for actors aged between 12 and 15 in late 2009, director Mark Storor and his team knew only that they wanted to do a show about “the journey of adolescence”. Though they notified all the heads of drama in inner London schools, they emphatically weren’t looking for those wanting to appear on Britain’s Got Talent or who had already acquired a repertoire of clever dramatic “tricks” from school plays.
Instead, they assembled a company and began working together for well over a year, meeting every Monday evening to eat together, reflect on what mattered to them and share their stories. The changes that were taking place in the young people’s bodies and personal lives inevitably fed into the process.
It was only in the last few weeks that Storor helped them pull the material into shape and create a show that could be presented on a public stage. This led to a momentarily disconcerting shift of gear. It seemed strange to be suddenly working to a tight schedule, commented one girl in rehearsal, after “a year and a half when we were completely free and had all the time in the world”. Tiny details of staging suddenly had to be decided, with one boy asking: “Will the apple be a Granny Smith or a Pink Lady?”
Yet Storor was determined to retain the freshness and emotional truth of the material and has structured it so that there are only two moments in the whole show when the actors must end up at exactly the same places every night.
It is performed in a tight circular space with stage hands, props and the four musicians clearly visible. Personal photographs and animations are projected on to a single all-round screen.