Big Girl, Bread & Roses Theatre

by Laura Kressly

Emily Jane Rooney longs for a world that doles out praise for being happy rather than being skinny, and where people can comfortably be their true selves. On the other hand, she wants the posh kid she works with to just fuck off. This clever use of contrast – switching from warm and vulnerable, to biting and sharp, and back again – keeps this one-woman show consistently engaging and fun despite a few underdeveloped moments that don’t fully cohere with the rest of the narrative.

Rooney’s energy is unrelentingly bold and effervescent, whether she’s scoffing digestives or sharing personal anecdotes about being working class, fat and queer. We hear about her nan, her posh uni mates, nights out with her friends back home, and navigating life as a poor artist trying to find her feet in London. Though the topics she addresses are weighty, she adeptly handles them with levity. There are some more seriously-delivered sections of spoken word, the majority of the script is closer to sketch comedy. Her stories are likely to be recognised by anyone balancing multiple identities and communities which can clash to hilarious – if cringy – effect. It’s comforting to know that this often-exhausting plate spinning is shared by others.

The design is limited to basic lighting and music, and there’s no set, but Rooney ensures the audience is never bored. A stronger through-line and a punchier ending would heighten all the good stuff that’s already present, but this is still an enjoyable night out.

Big Girl runs through 19 September then tours.

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