The space is intimate and small. The setting was minimalistic and you could definitely hear a pin drop in the silence. The audience are very close to the actors, which were four in total.The modest backdrop the play is set against helps the audience to focus on the messages and themes conveyed, rather than being distracted by various props.
Numbers explores the themes of eating disorders and mental health issues, but does not do so in an intrusive or explicit way. The play tries to be light-hearted and uses humour throughout its approach, alongside tackling more serious topics.
The health issue each character has is not overtly labelled as such, but leaves an intelligent audience to identify them. This is to reflect how mental health issues are often approached, whereby people often find themselves in contact with others exhibiting habits and symptoms, but often not knowing how to identify them or how they can help.
Our protagonist, Jack (Henry Waddon), often has asides with himself and to the audience, reciting various precise numerical statistics about himself, what he has eaten and its calorific value. He struggles with an eating disorder and with the exact amounts he has eaten such as ‘thirteen scoops of peanut butter or ‘eight cheese toasties’, and tries to keep up with the habits of his male friends.
Jack’s close friend Brianna (Abi Harindra) is a high-flying, three-time national gymnastics champion, who is always in a rush to get to work and is conscious about keeping fit and what she eats. She is a slave to social media, often posting videos of what healthy meals she has eaten post- workout. She strives to be the successful champion of her former self, but sets her expectations too high. She tries to implement structure and scheduling through complex Excel spreadsheets, created by herself, which only exacerbate her anxiety further. I liked the references to social media and apps such as Fitness Pal and the use of mobile phones throughout the play, which echoes the social norms of today.
The play lasted an agonising two and a half hours: the time was not used effectively, and my theatre buddy and I both felt that the play could have ended successfully in the first half, as in the second, it lost momentum. It was slow and the dialogue was not as well-connected as the first part, feeling almost as though the stories of the additional characters, Darren and Michael, were unnecessary additions.
Although the second half did drag on, there were some key messages I did take away from it, particularly Jack’s realisation he needs to look after himself, when referring to Brianna he says 'I need to stop worrying about her constantly and focus on myself’ and he begins to be less critical of himself and more accepting. This play still needs some work to successfully explore the themes within the two and a half hours or to keep it concise and end at the first half.