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Sweet About Me by Jacinta Sheerin is the second instalment in the four part series that makes up the Solo SIRENS Festival which is being held at the The Civic Theatre in Tallaght by the Solo SIRENS Collective. tHe Festival was created and is directed by Jenny Macdonald and produced by Jennifer Webster.
The festival is described as ‘an opportunity for audiences, theatre makers an a community collective to explore what it means to be a woman today’. Sweet About Me which was written and performed by Jacinta Sheerin examines addiction and the struggle to overcome addictions: drugs, alcohol or food. The play, though fictional, is loosely based on personal experience of eating disorder and the struggles that have to be faced in order to overcome such an addiction.
The play focusses on the struggles faced by Bernie. Bernie is 18 and struggling with an eating disorder who must now come to terms with her addiction. The play spans the four weeks which she spends in an addiction centre and the people she meets there including Leslie, Alan and Joyce (fellow residents) and Helen and Reuben who run the group and one to one therapy session which all the residents must take part in.
What is remarkable in the first instance is that this is a one woman show. Jacinta plays all of the parts. In addition to those mentioned already, she also plays Bernie’s parents, Joyce’s daughter and the father of Leslie’s children. This would be an achievement in itself. But, what makes this more than simply remarkable is that Jacinta managed to transform herself almost instantly from one character into another with such skill and fluidity that the audience could imagine that there was more than one person on the stage.
The main way that this is achieved is through voice and accent. Each character has a rather distinctive accent and vocabulary. But, in addition each character has other idiosyncrasies. Before we hear a word we always know what character is about to speak. On it’s own this amazing performance would make the play worth seeing.
However, this is only one, albeit convincing reason, to see this play. The story that unfolds is also engaging. At times it is very funny (Leslie is the star in this respect with Rueben and Alan also hilarious at times), at times it is brutally honest (Joyce’s daughter and Bernie’s inner voice/ alter ego and indeed Bernie herself) and at times it is heart breaking (Leslie describing her first score and the ensuing events is delivered with such a dead pan matter of factness that it almost takes a few moments for the true horror of her experience to register.
Although, the play focusses very much on a cast of characters who are at very low points in their lives, the abiding feeling by the end of the play is one of hope. There is a sense that each of these characters and especially the two main female characters have the ability to overcome the obstacles that have been placed in their way and indeed the situations that have held them back. While hope is the abiding feeling, there is a fear that the biggest obstacle that they will have to overcome is their own community and the very structure of society. But, by the end of the play we do feel that they will make it.
What really struck me as I was thinking about the play both on the night and afterward is that I could almost swear that there had been multiple actors on the stage. This is surely testament to the amazing performance both in terms of writing and in terms of delivery of Jacinta Sheerin.
This is not an easy play to watch at times. It challenges the audience to really look at some of the issues that impact women in Ireland today but there is something hugely important in bringing this to the stage and I hope that lots of people will make sure to see this exceptional production. While Sweet about Me has finished its run in The Civic, it goes on a nationwide tour in the Spring.
I love my beautiful body,
and it loves me.
I love my beautiful healthy body,
and it loves me.
If Sweet About Me is anything to go by, I am sure that the Solo SIRENS Festival which will run at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght is a must see:
Baggage by Nicola Rourke on November 29th and 30th at 8.15pm
Falling by SoloSIRENS Collective on December 13th and 14th at 8.15pm
There are panel discussions after each of the Friday shows.
If you have been affected by an eating disorder, or need information on the issues raised here, contact Bodywhys, the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland, on 1890 200 444.