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Review of Hear Me Raw at Soho Theatre

Hear Me Raw The wellness trend does not seem to be going anywhere fast. The obsession amongst the middle classes with ‘clean-eating’ has arisen across the globe with a vengeance, filling the gaping existential void said to characterise the 21st century.

God is dead, the economy is unstable, politicians have gone rogue and cancer is rife. What’s the layperson to do? Where is hope to be found? Why, in the glossy, glowing insta-blog-book-deals of those who seem to have uncovered the elixir of life, those shiny happy people that have found the antidote to the human condition inside an avocado, of course!

Now, I am no wellness denier. Quite the opposite, in fact, which is what drew me to Daniella Isaac’s play at the Soho (after transferring from a sell-out run in Edinburgh) in the first place. Walking into the studio space, I spy writer/performer Isaacs making little energy balls on her table, checking her various pots of gubbins, and am heartily cheered to see I actually own many of those items surrounding her. Chia seeds, spirulina, almond milk, pea protein – oh yes, as a vegan, I own them all – and have spent lots of money on safeguarding my own ‘wellness.’ But here, the similarity between Isaacs and myself ends. For as Isaacs reveals, amidst the all-pervading, expensive ‘wellness craze’ in the West, a darker side to the story lurks, as for some, eating healthily is not purely about knowing what makes you feel good, but about control and punishment.

Isaacs, a charming, likable young woman, tells us her own story as she begins to prepare a beetroot smoothie (most of which tellingly ends up on her t-shirt, or the floor), recanting her descent into Orthorexia.

I have heard of Orthorexia Nervosa, and to be fair found it an amusing term. ‘What will they come up with next?’ was my inner response. ‘An obsession with clean eating? Surely that’s no bad thing, given the obesity crisis going on’ But as Isaacs enlightens us, Orthorexia is indeed an ‘obsession’ in the purest sense; it is compulsive, anxiety-inducing, and life-changing, in the worst possible way.

Orthorexia Nervosa is a mental health condition that stops you attending momentous family events, reduces your enjoyment in life, renders meals out distinctly uncomfortable and, later, impossible, and ruins one’s health in the
most narcissistic way. If wellness is meant to promise glowing health, why do those that follow it to the letter often seem so ill?

Isaacs guides us through her argument as to why ‘clean-eating’ as a term is dangerous, and why cutting out whole food groups can leave you with bright orange hands and feet. Sensitively directed by Rosy Banham for LIPSINK, Isaac’s show is very telling of the modern age – the promise of eternal life, if only one can stand to regularly punish themselves with restriction and misery – and highlights our need for control in uncertain times. I’m still a vegan, I still like my spirulina, but Hear Me Raw did remind me of my mum’s old adage: ‘everything in moderation’, she’d say, as we happily gobbled down our Angel Delight. And you know what? I think she was right. And fortunately, I think Isaacs would agree.

4 stars

Review by Amy Stow

Written and performed by Daniella Isaacs | Directed by Rosy Banham
Running Time: 60 minutes | Suitable for ages 12+
Company Information
Written and performed by Daniella Isaacs Directed by Rosy Banham
Created and developed by Daniella Isaacs & Rosy Banham
Produced by LIPSINK in association with United Agents
Supported by Old Vic Lab
London’s Soho Theatre, between 17th and 21st October.


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