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Fat Chance | Theatre 503

Rachel Stockdale, writer and performer of Fat Chance, is fat, Northern and female. This, according to one agent, is a problem in her quest to make it as an actress - she is only allowed to be two of those three things.

Fat Chance explores her struggle to find her place in an industry and a world which wants to shrink her, taking us on a whirlwind 60-minute journey through failed auditions, diet culture and prejudice.

Along the way, Stockdale does not shy away from encouraging, even demanding, that her audience examine their own fatphobia. “What did you think of Rachel’s body when she walked on stage?” A recorded voice asks at one point, while Stockdale stares pointedly into the crowd.

However, this is by no means only a well-justified diatribe. It is also a story told with fun and heart, as Stockdale struts and dances around the stage, the use of original songs written by Stockdale and a popular song (with lyrics adapted to fit the narrative), both add levity and hammer home her points. Indeed the use of music was one of the high points of the show for me, particularly in a poignant scene in which Stockdale attempts to fit into her wedding dress.

This is primarily a one-woman show (although touring stage manager Kylie Ann Ford does make the occasional cameo), but Stockdale regularly enlists the help of partner ‘Smelly’ to help tell her story, although not in the way you might expect. Smelly appears on stage in the form of a standard lamp, which lights up while a recorded voice plays. The thick Geordie accent, fast speech and some slight sound issues mean Smelly’s words can be difficult to decipher at times, however.

The play benefits from strong AV design from Simon Cole, with Stockdale performing against a backdrop of three large screens, which flash up with video sequences and photos from different points in Stockdale’s life, as well as graphic typography to hammer home various statistics about fatphobia and diet culture. The one drawback of this is that, at least in Theatre 503 where I was reviewing, the positioning of the main screen meant that the text was sometimes blocked by the action on stage.

In a powerful monologue delivered in the closing minutes of the show, Stockdale issues an urgent call to the audience to examine their prejudices and treat themselves and others more kindly, to “change the way you see the world so you can change the world.” And Fat Chance is certainly making a bold attempt to change the world. Let’s hope audiences listen.

Fat Chance is touring the UK until 27 April. For more information and tickets, follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review


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