Big Girl at the Bread and Roses Theatre
Big Girl at the Bread & Roses Theatre is an autobiographic one-woman show, exploring growing up fat, queer and working class. Written and performed by the charismatic Emily J Rooney, the production takes a comedic, conversational tone as memories are reenacted and personal reflections are made. However, despite the fun atmosphere and engaging performer, Big Girl feels in many ways incomplete.
Structured similarly to a stand-up piece, Big Girl follows the classic formula of breaking the fourth wall, befriending the audience and retelling past experiences. Throughout the hour-long performance, the viewer hears about Rooney’s time in school, university and finally her as her present 23-year-old self. Separated by moodily lit spoken-word monologues, each period of her life hints at a new message and social point that she has faced. Themes of body positivity, wealth disparity and homophobia are all alluded too, but ultimately abandoned, resulting in the play that feels more like a friend telling us about their life, rather than a piece full of pointed meaning.
The funny, quintessentially British writing in Big Girl has a tendency to indulge in tangents, which negate the social commentary Rooney obviously sets out to make. Often inconsequential scenes take over, with lengthy descriptions, such as that of the Essex nightclub decor, overshadowing reflections on women and body image. The lack of dramaturgical direction in Big Girl results in an unfocused narrative, making it hard to decipher what Rooney is truly trying to convey. However, despite the faults in the storytelling, Rooney’s captivating performance is uplifting and proves to be the standout feature of the production.
Thanks to Rooney, Big Girl is engaging at points and in the space of an hour leaves the audience feeling as if they have gained a friend and confidant. Energetic throughout, with genuinely funny dialogue and witty audience rapport, it is impossible not to be charmed by her performance. The multi-layered and tonally distinct acting shows Rooney’s capabilities while also emphasising the anti-climatic narrative of the production.
All in all, Big Girl is a good time, albeit somewhat unsatisfying. Packed full of interesting points spoken through an interesting lens, it is a production full of untouched potential.
Big Girl is at the Bread & Roses Theatre from 17th September until 19th September 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.