TWO WEEKS: CIVIC THEATRE, TALLAGHT
Mon 23 November – Sat 5 December 2015 at 8.15pm
Director: Caroline Fitzgerald
Starring: Rose Henderson and Isobel Mahon
Reviewer: Rachel Rafferty – The Public Reviews
Probably one of the most appealing features of Ger Gallagher’s hilarious comedy, Weighing In is that at its heart is an all too familiar story that centers on two major aspects of women’s lives – identity and the body. Uproariously satirizing society’s contemporary obsession with the body beautiful, this two-hander is set in a small town in rural Ireland. The plot revolves around the svelte and hugely driven, blow in, Pam McGowan (Isobel Mahon) and the more amply proportioned, local Breda Lynch (Rose Henderson). Both are members of the nearby Easi-Slim clinic, but the difference is Pam having already lost a whole four stone has the prestige of being a life-long member while Breda is struggling. The two women bond, as the super-fit, Pam takes on Breda as her protégé in the battle of the bulge. Steered along by Pam’s leadership, a mixture of pep talks, pop psychology and power walks, Breda eventually begins to see results. However, as their friendship develops, an interesting parallel in the relationship emerges, for just as Breda drops the weight, so also does Pam drop her carefully, controlled veneer
The action takes place on the housewives’ power walks and Gallagher’s sharply funny dialogue is evident throughout. Pam and Breda lament for example, the unfortunate Dolores, who though a long-term attendee of the clinic actually got so fat she needs help to get up on the scales. Fitzgerald’s clean direction is obvious in this energetic, fast paced performance.
The actors also have a great rapport – Mahon’s Pam is a very heightened performance, a parody of a manic control-freak becoming almost cartoonish at times. Yet, she instills just enough humanity into the role to save it from veering over into caricature. This is tempered by Henderson’s very grounded Breda, down to earth, mammyish, plumb and pleasant.
At interludes, the offstage, voice of the Class Leader, in the form of Rosaleen Linehan’s voiceover adds to the fun. She dispenses tips, and advice, much of couched in those tired clichés that are the mainstay of most slimming clubs. Such hackneyed slogans as: ‘Fridge pickers wear bigger knickers.’
The play works on a deeper level also, positing the idea that obsessive dieting is just a fetish hiding a deeper need. The question is: what brings happiness? Pam is wealthy and gorgeous, but lonely, while the frumpy Breda’s home life is fulfilling and happy!
Reviewer: Frank L. No More Workhorse
We are constantly being told that obesity is a killer disease and we all need to eat less, to eat more wisely and to exercise. The first week in January after the excesses of the festive season is an entirely appropriate time to return to this less than amusing topic. Maybe an upstairs theatre in Dublin’s most iconic café, Bewleys in Grafton Street, is not the ideal venue in which to encourage eating less but that no way inhibits Breda (Rose Henderson) nor Pam (Isobel Mahon). Pam is new in town but is a long time successful member of Easi-slim (think target weight achieved, 4 stone lost, power walking guru, life time free membership); Breda shall we say is less successful and the problems of being a good wife and mother to her two sons have diverted her from success at Easi-slim. Pam brooks no arguments as she decides to take Breda in hand. They become bosom pals as they keep unwanted calories and needed exercise firmly in their sights.
Henderson and Mahon complement each splendidly in a two hander which takes a fair old swipe at the slimming industry. At the regular weigh-ins which take place weekly, the voice (off stage) of the Easi-slim guru (Rosaleen Linehan) gives advice, makes comments on the weekly weight losses, if any, and throws in for good measure some home truths as “encouragement” for those fighting the flab.
The inflections in her voice and the variety of its tones make a great foil for Breda and Pam to drive forward comically with their own personal battles which are not just about weight.
Losing weight is no laughing matter but adding humour to the ingredients must help the task to be a little bit easier. Weighing In has the right mixture of the difficulties and the obsessiveness which are likely to be encountered in any diet leavened by the comic script of Ger Gallagher, which is delivered with considerable skill by Rose Henderson and Isobel Mahon, that there is more than a good chance that smiles will dance merrily along the lips. In fact a large cream bun in Bewleys might be just what is needed to celebrate the inner glow that this production radiates!
Reviewer: Emer O’Kelly Sunday Independent
The lovely Emer O’Kelly hated Weighing In but I give you the grudging compliments she couldn’t ignore:
Rose Henderson’s endearing Breda is directed with her usual professionalism by Caroline FitzGerald, The audience at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre in Grafton Street at luncthime, 95% of them women, adored it. It is a relaxed way of spending a lunchtime hour.