Hear Me Raw, Soho Theatre

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by guest critic Gregory Forrest

Hear Me Raw was perhaps the poshest theatrical experience I have ever had (and that really is saying something). It was a glowing auditorium of bad hair, good genes, and plastic prosecco, followed by a swarm of supportive mums murmuring ‘Oh, isn’t she brave’.

And she is. In this one woman show, Daniella Isaacs breaks down the wellness industry with an astute satirical gaze, drawing upon her own personal experiences with food. A cocktail of introspection: she lovingly blends quotes from her family, a talking kitchen, and lots of beetroot. The result is a rather sour taste.

Anxiety, ‘unclean’ pills, and Orthorexia (an unhealthy obsession with eating healthily –  Isaacs lets the joke work for itself) are all tackled in under an hour. The play’s opening is particularly well done. Starting as a book launch/sales pitch for ‘Green Girl’ – a clean eating lifestyle concept – the evening soon descends into something much messier. The greatest punchline of the night is unspoken, simply ripping up a piece of paper. And as a comic, Isaacs has a immensely promising sense of pacing and structure.

In their latest 2016-2017 report, The Trussell Trust documents the provision of 1,182,954 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis across the UK. In a similar span between 2010 and 2011, this number was 61,468. Over six years, the number of people needing and accessing emergency food supplies has multiplied by more than nineteen.

It is perhaps unfair to bring this into a discussion of Hear Me Raw; it does not deal with the play’s themes of wellness and mental health on their own terms. Yet it would also be dishonest to leave out my gut reaction to the piece – a sense that its themes were unhelpfully narrow and its representation too specific. It had me wondering more about the mental health and wellness of those unable to buy their next meal, than those who overspend on matcha.

This should not, I hope, devalue individual experience. As someone who has an anxiety fuelled relationship with every meal, I empathise immensely with Isaacs’ stories. Yet with some irony, Hear Me Raw ultimately falls into that rut which all autobiography risks: an overly thin, skinny, cramped outlook.

But anyway, the prosecco mums loved it.

Hear Me Raw runs through 21 October 2017.

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