Live Theatre, NewcastleAs a fat feminist myself, I was more than intrigued and excited to explore Boro actor, Rachel Stockdale's one-woman performance, which documents her own personal experience with weight gain and fatphobia's insidious effects on every facet of her life.
As the lights went dark, I was immediately pulled into a place of vulnerability as Rachel appears in the spotlight wearing nothing but a bra and cycling shorts. Describing herself as “fat” not “bubbly or fluffy or curvy”, Rachel correlates this adjective with society's notion of beauty. All too many times fat people are told “you're not fat, you're beautiful” – why can't we be both? As Rachel points out: “I'm not saying I'm not beautiful. I'm saying I'm fat and beautiful.” Fat is not a bad word, it is a description.
Rachel shares with us the most intimate moments of her life, showcasing the ups and downs of her story, her grief and her celebrations alongside her partner ‘Smelly’ (taking the form of a talking, flickering lamp) through a combination of song, conversation and dynamic interaction, all in the confines of a familiar, living-room like setting.
Fatphobia is a feminist issue, but it is also a class issue. After several failed auditions across her acting career, Rachel ascertains that you can only be two of three: fat, northern or a woman. From not being taken seriously because of her northern accent, to not being offered anymore auditions after highlighting her dress size 18 on her portfolio, to working twice as hard for the same opportunities as male equivalents, Fat Chance calls attention to the struggles and effects of being a fat, northern and working class woman in a patriarchal society indoctrinated with fatphobic, classist minds.
The most striking moment is when Rachel tries on a wedding dress (which inevitably won't fit). She faces away from the crowd, unclasps her bra and takes it off. I've never felt an audience collectively hold its breath in sheer shock and anticipation. This is raw and this is real.
Fat Chance highlights the rocky journey and roadblocks Rachel has faced in order to be able to stand here now and wholeheartedly provide an audience with an opportunity to think on what she has said. To self-reflect. To be emotional. To laugh. To feel sad. To get mad. To question.
Fat Chance also offers a much needed space for anyone who has ever felt the pressure to adapt, change or shrink themselves down to be more palatable for someone else’s preconceived notion of ideality.