Mudwrestling meets body image issues as this production weighs in on the way society has taught women to be perceived and to perform.
Since the dawn of time, humans have always been obsessed with their bodies, and perhaps, none more so than the female body. Brought up on a steady diet of women’s magazines with stick thin covergirls, constantly told that ladies shouldn’t be eating so much, and with a smorgasbord of fat jokes waiting on every corner, it’s no wonder females all over the world have developed body complexes and eating disorders of every variety.
In Madeleine George’s The Most Massive Woman Wins, four ‘fat’ women meet at a liposuction clinic before undergoing surgery. The women range in background – one lonely woman thinks back to her university dissertation on eating disorders (rejected by her advisor, as it was too personal), another is a mother, unable to get jobs because of her appearances and herself wondering if she’s bringing up her daughter right. They look at each other, pause, and begin to share amongst themselves and the audience how and why they came to be here. The more they reveal, the more they realise that perhaps it is not a matter of removing fat, but learning to be ok in one’s own body.
Director Jenn Havelberg’s new production of the play adds a distinct visual twist to the entire script, using a square mudwrestling pit as the centrepiece of the entire set. Performers Tina Mitchell, Lisa Lanzi, Rachael Kirkham and Tamara Lee disrobe silky nightgowns to unveil bodies ready to grapple, and to get down and dirty. But for all its apparent intentions to mimic a throwdown, the only real instance of any wrestling at all takes place near the beginning, as the women playfight with each other in enacting a memory of one of them attempting to resist the unrelenting temptation of food.
For the remainder of the accounts, the pit perhaps serves instead as a symbol of the way these women view themselves – as soiled, dirty objects, and as the physical manifestation of the constant battleground on which they wage war against society itself, fighting off snide insults and constant rejection based on appearances. These accounts are interspersed with nursery rhymes and new, self-pitying songs, reflecting the almost infantile state in which we’ve been poised to view our bodies, unable to grow beyond them to readily learn to accept us as we are. This is no Biggest Loser reality show; we are all losers in the game show where society has pit us against each other.
As slow and heavy as the subject matter is presented, these are all relatable “we’ve been there” type stories, and with the diversity and universality of their content, some stories are certain to resonate with audience members at some point during the show. These are depressing stories to be sure, painting the female condition as one that seems utterly miserable with pain and detest lying in wait at every corner, and it’s no wonder that these women are utterly convinced that the only way out is to change themselves by surgical force. Despite being almost 10 years old, The Most Massive Woman Wins is a timely reminder that even today, there are some things that simply do not change. The cycle of inherited abuse and self-abuse has to end, lest we continue to bloat ourselves with the burden of society’s ‘ideal’ body type, and that true change starts not from without, but clearly, from learning a little self love and confidence to better combat these warped expectations of the ideal woman.
Photo Credit: Derick Tickner
Performance attended 24/1/18
The Most Massive Woman Wins plays at the Esplanade Annexe Studio till 25th January. Tickets are sold out.