‘Chantel is on her phone and Nicole is on her period.’
An early scene in Eat Your Heart Out dictates the tone of the play: realistic modern teen life. Based around Belle and her friends, there’s the expected glut of sex, drinking, bitching and boys: all the important aspects of carefree adolescent life are catered to. Nobody’s keeping too much of an eye on Belle, though, so the undercurrent of her disordered eating and poor body image takes a while to rise to the fore.
Teens can be useless when carefree turns to worrying, and the reactions to her situation are strikingly true-to-life. Eat Your Heart Out is unique in that it doesn’t focus solely on Belle’s situation, but we hear from her friends – who react understandably, if not particularly well – plus her family and boyfriend. It’s a look at how loved ones do and don’t deal well with a diagnosis, and the fact that there is limited support available for them to feel they can help in any way. ‘She doesn’t look significantly underweight to me,’ says one GP. What’s her mum supposed to do with that?
That’s not to say Eat Your Heart Out is eager and preachy, it’s not – in fact the play is lined with sharp observations, proving that mental health can be talked about without resorting to doom and gloom. At the same time, it’s a raw exploration of eating disorders, from difficult teenage friendships, relationships and struggling to get help to, ultimately, a hope for recovery.
Until Sun 26 Aug (not 12, 19), Paradise in Augustines, times vary, £10 (£8.50).