A reaction to the inundation of images of perfect bodies in contemporary society, What’s Your Issue? tackles the much ruminated topic of body image and the associated culture of insecurity bred by advertising. With solid performances throughout, there are moments of effective natural comedy, even if the theme pervades every moment, feeling overbearing at times. The audience are saturated with bodies, moments of half-dress on stage and on screen, hammering hard on the issue.
We follow model Liss (Meena Rayann), who is outraged by her photoshopped image appearing on the cover of a magazine. Meanwhile, Karina (Quelin Sepulveda), a huge fan of the magazine and of Liss, gets a job as a contributing writer. She works for Dani (Jeryl Burgess), the photographer in charge of the decision to airbrush images. Karina’s boyfriend Justin (Joseph Begley) is tempted meanwhile by spite to pursue Liss, seeking validation against his own insecurities. The love triangle doesn’t quite hold up as we cycle quickly through the stages of conflict, but is delivered with strong performances from all.
Newcomer Quelin Sepulveda really delivers and is by far the most endearing character, being the only one who truly experiences any growth; she and Meena Rayann are both a joy to watch, Rayann certainly demonstrating her distinctive sparkle in all her moments on stage.
This is hardly a new topic for discussion, and it comes as a surprise to nobody that models are photoshopped in magazines. All the performers spend long moments sighing over their bodies in a state of half-dress, and this occasionally cuts the pace where more time might have been better spent on fleshing out plot points. Regardless, the strength of this play lies in the more intimate dialogue, moments executed with very natural humour – conversely, its weakness lies in the overarching logic. There are big jumps in the sense behind much of the characters’ motivations, and it is here where that precious sighing-time might have helped. We end up with a great deal of superbly realistic dialogue, delivered in unrealistic situations. This does much, however, to ground the play, demonstrating the talent of writers Rachael Bellis and Tom Hartwell.
Despite a very 2D view of men and their expectations – this too could have been given a little more nuance – What’s Your Issue made me glad to have been raised in a way where my looks weren’t quite so scrutinised. Though this is a play about media and body image, it seems to also suggest that our parents and their negative reinforcement can be the root of our problems in this regard in adulthood. In all, a solid dissection of a well-trodden issue, I look forward to Bellis and Hartwell’s next work, perhaps turning their talent for subtle and effective comedy to a clearer plot-arch. With good performances and thought-provoking themes, What’s Your issue? is a solid play, and most enjoyable.
Review by Christina Calgaro
Aequitas presents What’s Your Issue: a one hour dramatic comedy about our obsession with the ideal body as portrayed by the media. The play explores the relationship between our insecurities and how they are influenced from childhood. Throughout the play, the characters struggle with their body image. There’s the new model, Liss, getting her first big break, who can’t handle when her pictures are altered. There’s a young writer and her boyfriend who base their self-perception (and their relationship) on magazines. And there’s the photographer who perpetuates the stereotype all while struggling with her own concerns about her weight. It all comes together in the next issue of Sabine, the hottest new magazine out there.
Rachael Bellis and Tom Hartwell are teaming up to write, following Bellis’s run of Conversations From The Web in last year’s fringe and Hartwell’s You Tweet My Face Space, which will be performed in Edinburgh shortly before this piece. Sophia Start will return to direct, having previously directed Conversations From The Web, Measure for Measure, and Merchant of Venice. The cast includes Game of Thrones’ Meena Rayann as Liss, Jeryl Burgess as Danni, Joseph Begley as Justin, and newcomer Quelin Sepulveda as the young writer, Karina. What’s Your Issue will continue Aequitas’s use of mixed media by using a large projector screen to get a close up view of the characters’ perceived flaws.
What’s Your Issue? in the Camden Fringe
The Cockpit, Gateforth Street, Marylebone, London, NW8 8EH
August 25-27, 2016, 7:00pm