Thursday, September 28

Things I’d Like To Get Off My Chest – Hope Mill Theatre

Turns out there are quite a few things that Eva Lily would like to get off her chest and having big boobs is just one of them. This highly entertaining one woman show currently playing at Hope Mill Theatre takes a very honest and open look at the long-term failings of female healthcare and the constant narrative, and subsequent judgement, that the mere existence of women’s bodies creates in our society.

But firstly, the boobs. They are big. Really big.  At a size 38K, (‘average’ UK woman is a 36DD) they are prohibitively big and the impact of them upon Eva’s life cannot be underestimated. The piece opens with a 13-year-old Eva in the dressing room at Rigby and Pellier, brassiere makers to the late Queen and the scene of the ritual humiliation of her first bra fitting. I don’t believe there was a single woman in the audience who couldn’t connect with the deeply upsetting experience of being prodded, poked and pushed by a complete stranger with full approval of an accompanying well meaning female relative. Escorted for the evening by my big sister, 36E, we nodded sagely as we remembered the humiliating trips to Marks and Spencer and the tears shed in British Home Stores. Sadly, for Lily, her tears did not end with the trainer bra experience but continued in Bravissimo aged 17, House of Fraser aged 20 and well into her adulthood as her buds became breasts became bazongas.

Surely there are positives to having large mammaries, Lily ponders. Well yes, of course. They would provide a helpful natural life jacket in those about to drown moments, keep you warm when you can’t afford to put the heating on during a cost of living crisis, provide a fabulous personal tray/shelf upon which you can eat your TV dinner but the cons far outweigh the pros. Ill-fitting clothes are just a start; neck, shoulder and back problems, constant pain and discomfort, difficulty in participating in sport, limitations in ability to take exercise, The Male Gaze …  the list goes on.

By the age of 14, Lily thinks she needs a breast reduction, by 24 she knows. Her journey to get to the point where she is eligible for this hefty piece of surgery is the focus of this hour long, witty, frank, smart and sharp piece of theatre in which the engaging, charming and very likeable Lily cleverly shares her rage without taking her anger out on the audience. She questions why men having breast reductions do not have to meet the same criteria as women; why a woman’s BMI is such a key indicator for a woman meeting the threshold for surgery when it is a calculation unchanged since 1830 to define the average man. She asks what the world would be like if men had periods and I was reminded of a very funny piece that Ben Elton presented in the early 80s in which he imagined how a male cricket team would cope if their opening batsman got to the crease and found his period had come. Hilarious. And Lily is hilarious too. Her audience participation sequence in the style of a very familiar game show was excellent not only in its content but in the generosity she afforded those who offered their participation in it.

Presenting the multiple characters she meets along the way is done successfully with the use of simple symbolic props, but I did feel that the production could have benefitted from better use of lighting to distinguish the roles as was done successfully when she presented herself as a renaissance painting.

Lily neither rants nor lectures the points she has to make. She offers the facts; the lack of funding, the judgement, the requests by lovers for suffocation fantasies to be fulfilled, the damage done when women’s pain and suffering is not given the same credence as men’s

Lily has successfully turned her pain, suffering and frustration into an eloquent, well-paced and sharp piece of theatre presented with imagination and gentle hilarity. Good luck to that woman!

Reviewer: Lou Kershaw (40DD)

Reviewed: 13th July 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.