Sunday’s Child Theatre return to the Fringe after last year’s five-star, award-winning My Name is Saoirse. This year they’ve brought Overshadowed, a play about eating disorders that won the Fishamble Award for Best New Writing at the Dublin Fringe in 2015.
Imogene (Roseanne Lynch) has always been a bit odd about food, and when the strange creature Caol (Irish for ‘narrow’; played by Eva O’Connor) shows up to offer her a devil’s bargain, Imogene gives up control in exchange for the promise of getting thin. With her new best friend/demonic food-denying overlord by her side, Imo goes from being a wild, hilarious master of doing the worm to a skeletal, manic, skipping ghost. Overshadowed is a sympathetic, heartbreaking, and often funny portrayal of anorexia and the effect it has on both the sufferer and their friends and family.
At first it is unclear why anorexia is being represented as a physical being, but all becomes apparent in a very poignant speech by Imo’s younger sister Tara (Anne O’Riordan). Imogene’s old self hasn’t disappeared; she’s just living in the shadow of a formidable illness. O’Connor’s physicality as Caol is appropriately sinister and possessive. On the other hand, Caol’s rhyming speech is less convincing, and adds a touch of panto that doesn’t seem to add anything to the show. Caol’s physical presence does make it easy to see the hold anorexia has over Imogene, but her existence is surreal enough as it is without reminding audiences of Dr Seuss.
Overshadowed is a well written and brilliantly acted drama (rounding out the cast are Adam Devereux as Eamon Delaney, Imo’s real, human friend, and Deborah Whyte as Imogene’s mother). It offers some important insight into what it’s like to live with an eating disorder, but without trying to offer solutions – the desire to change must come from the sufferer herself.