The Gatehouse, Highgate, London, 24/08/2019.
Francesca Forristal’s Oddball certainly lives up to it’s title as in this one woman show she talks about how she’d suffered from anorexia but also takes on a number of different characters, and often bursts in to song as well. It’s a tour de force from a clearly very talented actress and an even more talented writer who has created an hour long show which is a fascinating insight in to what it’s like to live with such a condition.
I’d previously seen Forristal in Villain, Interrupted which like Oddball was directed by Micha Mirto and she impressed a lot as she took on various roles in the production, but here she’s even better as she gets to examine in depth what it was like to have anorexia, spend time in hospital with it, and then live a life where she’d supposedly recovered but clearly had a very unhealthy relationship with food, working out exactly what every single bite (or sip) would be calorie wise and struggling to decide what to eat each night.
Not that we’re plunged in to such details from the start, initially it seems to be a bright and breezy affair as Francesca is getting ready to go on a third date with Emily, a woman she seems rather fond of, and there’s discussion about how the date might go and how much they have in common. This allows Francesca to talk about their mutual love for musicals but also the dates she’d been on in the past which had been reasonably awful, and she portrays the various men who she met and shows us just how hideous they were, at one point even singing in character as one of them in a very funny song about how much he loved her vulnerability.
But as the production continues it starts to take a darker turn as we get to see just how difficult a relationship she has with food, not helped by her Fitbit which constantly reminds her whether or not she’s active enough. There’s bursts of song and some very funny jokes to soften some of the more difficult aspects of her life, which includes just how it effects her mentally on a day to day basis, her experiences in hospital, and that at the worst of times it lead to bursts of bulimia.
It’s superbly directed by Micha Mirto and throughout the sound, music and lighting are used effectively, it’s often a playful piece but it never forgets the message it’s imparting too. Forristal’s performance is outstanding, and ultimately it’s very funny show about a very serious subject, and one which will hopefully help anyone suffering from the same condition as well. It’s now come to the end of it’s run at the Camden Fringe but I hope it’s restaged and soon, as Forristal deserves great success with it.
Francesca’s Official Site.