Review: Overshadowed

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.

Sunday’s Child Theatre, the team who brought the hugely successful My Name is Saoirse to last year’s Fringe, return this year with Overshadowed. While Saoirse dealt with pregnancy and coming of age,Overshadowed bravely faces the subject of eating disorders, namely anorexia.

Imogen (Roseanna Lynch), once vibrant and full of life, has succumbed to anorexia nervosa and her life couldn’t be farther from her earlier carefree days when she and her younger sister Tara (Maeve O’Sullivan) were best of friends. As home life pressures begin to mount Imogen meets a strange and unusual creature named Caol (Eva O’Connor), a worm or intestinal like being who moves in an odd manner and only speaks in rhyme. Like some kind of succubus, Caol seduces Imogen with promises of control and power, providing a sense of order to life that Imogen clearly years for. Imogen accepts Caol into her life but soon becomes a slave to Caol’s demands. Friendship and family ties are damaged as Imogen increasingly restricts her diet and exercises to the extreme. She becomes physically unwell and all areas of her life begin to suffer.

While smoking at school one day Imogen meets Eamonn (Adam Devereux), the school bad boy and would-be drug dealer. Initially at odds with each other, this relationship blossoms as they both begin to realise that each of them has been misunderstood, to a certain degree, by society. At her wits end, Imogen’s mother (Sinead Clancy) contacts her ex-husband, Imogen’s father, for help. This leads to a final sequence of events that will either make or break Imogen and Caol’s relationship.

Directed by Hildegard O’Connor, Overshadowed is a brave yet simple story that gives a voice to the experience of eating disorders, from the individual’s perspective but also from the impact it can have on the family as a whole. The inclusion of Caol adds an extra dimension to the story and works very well, partially due to O’Connor’s performance, which is consistent throughout and is no mean feat of physicality. As Imogen’s trying-her-best mother, Clancy gives a solid performance and provides the most realistic element of the entire piece.

The beautifully simplistic set (Deirdre O’Dwyer) of four plywood boxes, reconfigured between scenes to make various locations, flowed perfectly with the story, as did the minimal use of props.  In a story about power and control the set itself adheres to the demands that less is more.  Similarly, lighting (Tara Doolan) and sound (Daniel Cummins) keep things low key, with scene changes being accompanied by a surreally calming music that has an undertone of malevolence.

For such a difficult topic there is plenty of humour and laughs in Overshadowed, mostly supplied by O’Sullivan’s cheeky Tara and Devereux’s bad-but-nice Eamonn.  Overshadowed feels like it could be performed at schools to highlight the issue of eating disorders, and perhaps it should.  An unusual portrayal of an all too usual issue in modern society.

Writer: Eva O’Connor

Director: Hildegard Ryan

Photo courtesy of the Tiger Dublin Fringe

Runs until September 19th as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe

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