WHALE is a fat woman’s perspective on growing up. There, I said it. Fat. It’s not scary, is it? It’s certainly not an insult.
Courtney McManus is a natural performer with a knack for intimate and personal storytelling. She also knows when to deliver witty lines to ease the tension.
As she’s recalling incidents from her high school days where everyday things like buying a ball dress hit different when you’re fat, her re-enactments are fraught with emotion. A scene in particular where she is miming pulling a ball dress on was crafted beautifully. I don’t know enough about the art of mime to say if that was done skilfully; but you knew exactly what she was doing without the need for props. You were there, in the moment with her.
The seating in the show’s venue, The Little Palais, was uncomfortable for my post-massage body to sit in but that was barely comparable to the discomfort Courtney feels over things like doctor visits. I was ready to sit there in my physical discomfort and empathise with her emotional discomfort that others project onto her as a fat person.
Considering Courtney is recovering from a throat infection, I was very impressed with her delivery. Even without homeostasis, she is at ease on stage. I’ve said before that fringe is unpredictable with technical or logistical mishaps almost expected, however Courtney took everything in her stride. The mishaps didn’t take away from the raw emotionality of her recollections.
There were moments where some audience members walked out, and I realised that this show doesn’t resonate with everyone. However, it’s not about resonating. If you want to hear what it’s like to grow up in a fatphobic world and have your entire being defined by others based on your body shape, this show will enlighten you. Be prepared for confrontation delivered with a side of wit, and possibly to not find this show relatable at all. That’s the point. It’s not about making you comfortable. If you can handle that, you will be rewarded with a different perspective.
WHALE is on now at Fringe World Perth until Feb 19.