Camden Fringe 2019: Oddball at the Gatehouse
An “Oddball” is defined as a strange or eccentric person, certainly not a term regularly used to describe someone suffering from a mental illness. The word gives off comedic connotations, not bleakness, which is exactly what this play is. Forget the skinny, upper-class, white, blonde girls. It’s up to one woman (Francesca Forristal) to challenge hundreds of people’s perceptions of eating disorders in a mere 60 minutes. She wastes no time. Each minute is relevant, from a heated argument with a Fitbit to a brief song that shows the performer can actually sing.
Forristal achieves her goal in “trying to find a dramatic way of depicting eating disorder mentalities that doesn’t romanticise and doesn’t feel cliché”. The only cliché element is the dates that the titular character, Oddball, has to endure, and we are reminded by the soundwork of Jordan Clarke that they really did happen. This is relatable to everyone – proved by the nodding heads in the audience. As if dating isn’t hard enough for millennials without the added eating disorder, the protagonist tells horrific stories of a guy that wants to sleep with her feelings, accompanied by a strangely catchy song, a girl obsessed with astrology, and a date that never wants to break eye contact. She responds by not just breaking, but completely shattering the fourth wall, even going as far as spitting and murdering her Fitbit in someone’s pint.
The show is a raw and honest one-woman comedy that does not shy away from harshness. Jokes are made about anorexics entering a sandwich shop and there’s even a surprisingly smooth rap about bulimia. Forristal shares everything with us, but what about her dates? The real question is how much is too much to share with someone that you don’t want to scare off. Oddball ponders this as she gets ready to meet Emily at a horror house, or her definition of a horror house – a restaurant. She is stripped bare, literally. There is no set, and not even a solo prop to help her along the way. There are only lights and the occasional sound effect, yet the majority of the sound effects come from the performer’s own mouth, including the applying of deodorant.
It’s easy to see why Forristal wanted to perform completely alone, under Micha Mirto’s direction, as this really is her own, real experience with an eating disorder. Oddball is a conversation, not a play, that gives its audience a real look into the mind of an anorexia sufferer. A must-see.
Oddball is at the Gatehouse from 20th until 24th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
For further information about Camden Fringe 2019 visit the festival website here.