Tell Me Anything

Richard Whiteley Theatre, Giggleswick

ALTHOUGH a one man show, the play is actually very much about a couple and the absent Kate plays a key role as the now adult David looks back on the relationship with his first girlfriend and how they fell in and out of love.

It is also about how their relationship was shaped by the fact that Kate had an eating disorder and that David felt part of being in the relationship was dealing with the disorder and trying to save her.

From the moment David comes on stage he engages directly with the audience and while his comments about men being unable to express their emotions do seem somewhat contrived and uncomfortable, they do serve to highlight that throughout the piece David tries to keep control of his emotions and stay in touch with his feelings so he can understand and help Kate control her own world.

Sadly the teenage David doesn't seem to comprehend that through her illness Kate is manipulating him and that the battle is never really his to fight.

A mental illness such as Kate's is very much about control and inevitably as he tells the story his protests that this isn't about him but about her become harder to believe as he tries to help her and to be seen to be helping her and revelling in his heroic ability to do so.

This is mirrored in the way he tries to impose order on the world he is inhabiting, the careful and continuous re-positioning of cardboard tubes in an attempt to try to keep a semblance of balance and order as his teenage self tries desperately to get Kate to seek help.

On this simple stage, with a blank space, cardboard cylinders and a chair there is also an inflatable dolphin - which becomes symbolic of teenage David's approach to caring for Kate as he tries to support and nudge her towards the course of action he desires.

The most moving moment in the production comes when he realises that she will always resist his efforts and that not only does he not possess the ability to heal her, he has also not got the ability to make her wish to be healed.

The total desperation in the hiss of air as he finally deflates the dolphin and cradles its shrunken form is far more eloquent than any soliloquy or haunting than any scream.

This said, it is not an easy play to watch and there are times when it does seem to be overly self-indulgent, as if the audience has accidentally strayed into a confessional.

But equally it is an interesting and rewarding experience which presents a far from stereotypical view of a "stick thin anorexic" and the impact of the illness on those around the person.

At its heart is a compelling and honest, though sometimes flawed performance of a would be heroic but too young to be anything but flawed hero.

Gill O'Donnell