Review: Awkward Annie
Venue: York St John University, February 26
Anorexia nervosa is maybe one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses. Contrary to popular belief, most victims of anorexia don’t develop the illness because they want to look like super models, but because they are dealing with deep emotional pain.
It’s a contorted form of self punishment. It’s displaying an inner vulnerability on the very surface of the body. It’s pushing the limits of organic laws.
Victoria Emily Sharples, a young theatre graduate from York St John University, reveals her own experience of anorexia in the award-winning Awkward Annie, performed during Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
The performance is strictly autobiographical, brutally honest, ironic, sometimes deeply disturbing in its truth.
Vicky confesses her fears, dreams, struggles in a direct conversation with the audience.
She reads letters and notes, she dances and sings, and interacts with light projections of bones and sections of bodies, trying to match them with her figure, in an unachievable attempt to reach a complete mimesis.
She talks about what it means to live with Annie: as many young people who fall victims of eating disorders, Vicky feels possessed by another entity, Annie, the illness, which lives with her 24 hours a day, dictates her actions, decides what she can and cannot enjoy.
When recovery starts, Vicky makes the decision of giving up on Annie.
While this action creates relief and freedom, it also makes Vicky feel weak, not strong enough to carry on a mission of putting the inside out.
Not strong enough to persevere in a slow suicidal action that paradoxically comes from a desire to be better, to be stable, and to rise higher than the material constrictions of our body.
But Vicky is successfully recovering. She can now joke about food, family, OCD, sex, and her work as a performer in moments of witty humour.
Until she reveals the traumatic core of the performance: the ghost of infertility, the paralysing fear of having damaged her dream to become a mother.
Watching Awkward Annie is an overwhelming experience because of its closeness to the truth of the illness, for the rich variety of materials used, for the abundance of words and reflections.
More than a performance, Awkward Annie is a personal documentation of a girl who is working on herself to blossom as the woman she has always dreamed of, and who is trying to accept her beautiful imperfect humanity.