Thursday, July 7

Devil’s Food Cake – Brighton Fringe

Devil’s Food Cake, written and directed by Marcia Kelson, is a dark and emotional drama, written for online performance, which explores the bewildering and overwhelming world of anorexia and its effect on both the patient and their loved ones.

The play tells the story of Sophie (Eden Vansittart) who is living with anorexia and the efforts her Mum, Jenny (Lesley Ann Jones), Dad, Frank (David Jones) and sister, Katie (Eliza Jones) are making to persuade her to eat. In their desperation they sign up for family therapy sessions with Jasmine (Caroline Salter).

When the play opens Sophie’s actions seem almost reasonable as her apparently overprotective mother tries to prevent her following a plant-based diet, for the planet, and going for a run to keep healthy. It quickly becomes clear however that Sophie is engaging in compulsive behaviour and Jenny and Frank don’t know what to do about it anymore.

The play has been cleverly shot so that Jenny, Frank and Sophie are all shown together in one frame while Sophie appears in a separate frame, creating the impression that she is one her own while the other three are united as one.

The unnerving voice of Ana (Catherine Allison), who appears during the first family therapy session controls and manipulates Sophie, before moving on and trying to infiltrate other members of the family. The conversations between Allison and Vansittart are excellent and do an excellent job of bringing life to the thought patterns involved in an eating disorder and the helplessness often felt by the patient as they become torn between the eating disorder and the rest of their life.

Some parts of the play do stray a little into telling mode with some unnatural dialogue which could be stronger with some editing to maintain the strong family dynamic which is shown through the rest of the piece.

Salter’s performance as the impartial therapist is very good, as she creates an image of the family that is too cold and clinical while doing an objectively good job of helping Sophie and her family. This shows how, while therapy techniques can be effective and move people in the right direction, long-term, the clinical view can create resistance and pushback from the people who were originally being helped by the therapy.

Lesley Ann Jones is brilliant as the desperate mother who loves to cook, and the rollercoaster of emotions her character is on is wonderfully portrayed throughout the piece. 

Devil’s Food Cake is an emotional piece which wonderfully illustrates the sense of horror and desperation that living with an eating disorder creates, whether on the outside or the inside. As Sophie’s life goes into a downward spiral, this very poignant piece shows that everyone around her is losing the battle. The ominous feeling of the play and the emotional depth of the characters mean that this is a really engaging piece of online theatre that you will be thinking about for a long time.

Devil’s Food Cake is being streamed by Brighton Fringe until 27th June 2021. Tickets are available here https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/devils-food-cake-153706/  

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 23rd June 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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