As has happened to me a couple of times recently at the
theatre, a few questions into the post show talk I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment that
unlocked the whole piece. In last night’s case it was Caroline Horton talking
about her three hander, comic, poignant, semi-autobiographical ‘Mess’.
The last few paragraphs, that I’ve given up on and you’ll
never see, attest to how difficult this show is to describe. Anything I might
write about the narrative journey, the properly funny jokes, who the characters
represent or even what actually happens in the course of 90 minutes, won’t give
you a flavour of the experience of watching this show.
Which is perhaps why it was Horton explaining how the piece
came about that finally cracked it for me. She was back in Oxford at a prize
day for her old school, happened to mention in passing that she’d struggled
with Anorexia, and was stunned at the response from students, teachers and
parents once she’d apparently opened the door on a conversation they were
desperate to have.
So Mess then is a fantastic example of the kind of theatre
that you walk out of already talking. A personal account of anorexia from the
inside, but not forgetting what it’s like to be on the outside trying to help. Like
all good fables no-one is a caricature, but there are certainly more voices in
the piece than our two main characters.
I’m torn between recommending this show as an education in
Anorexia and a laugh out loud comedy. Either way I’ll recommend it and hope
that whichever of those appeals to you you’ll catch it next time it comes