This review first appeared in Western Park Gazette
Leicester Theatre Group and TheNaked. present
Sue Townsend Theatre, 3 and 4 March
Artistic Director and Choreographer Charley Benns
Guest Choreographer Matthew Lambden
Leicester Theatre Group, one of Leicester’s most well-respected children’s theatre companies, has collaborated with DMU Dance graduate Charley Benns of TheNaked. to create Pixie’s Project. Through devised dance, and as Eating Disorder Awareness Week draws to a close, this is a powerful production which aims to increase understanding of and break the taboos surrounding eating disorders, in this case, anorexia.
An uncompromising performance, Pixie’s Project makes for uncomfortable viewing, telling the story of Chloe Shelton as she becomes engulfed and controlled by the monkey on her back, Ana Anorexia. Well-meaning friends and family try to release Chloe from the grip of this condition, and from the dark recesses of despair, Chloe ultimately finds the strength to confront Ana Anarexia thanks to caring for her kitten, Pixie.
Sophie Baker as Chloe is at times heart-wrenching, and ably conveys the struggles and conflicting emotions, both with her own mental health and the effects her condition has on her family and friends.
Ana Anorexia is portrayed by Georgia Penney with sinister menace, and together with the other ‘Anas’ (Chelsea Partridge, Olivia Mahan and Amelya Tonge), are a dark presence in Chloe’s mind.
Chloe is supported by friends and family (Bethany John, Ruby Jacques, Lottie Wade, Amina Hillyard and Annabelle Tarrant), all concerned with their own journeys of frustration and understanding. Some of the key pas de deux are upsetting – between Ana and Chloe, and Chloe and her mum – or beautifully moving, with Chloe and her best friend, and also her boyfriend Josh (Ben Culleton).
Issues with mental health, eating disorders and body image are increasing and worrying concerns, particularly amongst teenage girls. Clutching at and assessing and re-assessing her appearance is an almost constant motif throughout the choreography, showing Chloe’s ongoing battle with her ‘self’.
Effective lighting (David Hately) and contemporary music assist the storytelling, although on occasion, the sound is ear-splittingly loud.
The aim of this production is to tour, ideally in schools and colleges, and Chloe’s story, told in this simply staged yet powerful production, can only help to serve as an all-important focus for challenge, discussion and hopefully, greater understanding.
An emotional and absorbing production, performed to a high standard.
This production was supported by BEAT, the charity for eating disorders.
Images by Dirty Diamond and Stef White.