Reviewed by Alex Foott
Book, Music & Lyrics by Tim Anfilogoff and Alan Whittaker
Performance date – Thurs 8th Aug 2013
Finally! A musical that celebrates the female form in all its shapes and sizes! Just what we need to refocus our increasingly warped views of beauty. I see my thoughts echoed in the faces of a trio of young girls taking their seats in the front row and we all settle in for a most enlightened production. Unfortunately, it seems we have expected too much. A Body to Die[t] For struggles to communicate its commendable message and at times even appears to ridicule those suffering from eating disorders and distorted body image. Cue a line of raised eyebrows from the front row. Stylistically, this piece swings between satire and melodrama and fails to captivate us. Unhelpfully, its characters change their opinions at the drop of a hat, resulting in a very confused audience.
Greta is a teenager who dreams of becoming an English teacher. After enduring her stepfather’s sexual advances, and pleading fruitlessly with her mother, she escapes to a life of homelessness. Predictably, she loses weight and is approached by a model scout who catapults her into the limelight. Greta briefly enjoys the high life until she discovers its various atrocities. Unbeknownst to Greta, lurking in the shadows is a seductress named Fay who aims for full body liberation. Fay lures Tony, Greta’s friend, into her plans to save Greta from a life of twisted self perception and the pair defend her from surrealist anti-body terrorists.
The role of Greta is split between three girls, serving primarily as a visual aid as her weight fluctuates. Nicola Kill, Rosie Watson and Grace Bishop are individually appropriate for this vacillating part yet they have not agreed on a mutual physicality. It almost seems as though we are watching three different characters. Kill and Watson are tolerable as Greta but it is Bishop who really earns our sympathies as she wallows in misery. Chelsea Corfield and Paul Brangan give the chorus a much needed boost, delighting the audience with excellent characterisation and superb comic timing while Annie Kirkman positively smoulders as Fay.
It may be prudent to mention that the while the score is quite excellent, the accompanying lyrics are abysmal. This corresponds with other triumphantly farcical musicals such as Bat Boy and Evil Dead which employ these saccharine serenades as a distinct means for comedy. However, A Body to Die[t] For possesses neither the slick delivery nor the glaring theatricality that make said lyrics tolerable. Its script is often self-contradictory and the nonspecific performance styles baffle and exasperate. Though the initial intent of this musical is to be applauded, it has lost its way and sends mixed messages to its audience. If it were restyled and the characters were a little more straightforward, this could be a very good show.