Review: Weighing In

There are plenty of obvious flavours in this show, which is as edgy as a marshmallow

Weighing In

Bewley’s Café Theatre, Dublin


Whatever you make of Ger Gallagher’s undemanding comedy, you can’t fault its timing. When better to stage a two-hander about dieting, tortured self-image and desperate optimism than the beginning of a new year, a period of regrets and as-yet unbroken resolutions?


Gallagher's comedy, now presented by Bewley's and Jill Thornton, is not exactly a crash-programme, though. It has been touring to theatres since early last year, and, like its characters, it has worked to change its shape - albeit minimally - from a radio play to a stage performance. Like its self-mortifying characters, however, it seems to decide it was happier the way it was.

We first see Val (Isobel Mahon), an uptight parody of a D4 mummy determined to stay yummy, in a conspiracy of lycra. Breda (Rose Henderson) meanwhile, camouflaged in bulky layers, is scooping out the last of a demolished crisp packet. Both enter a regional outpost of Easi-Slim, a Weight-Watchers style group that urges its members towards a slimmer future through a steady diet of calorie-counting and psychological humiliation - point-scoring, if you will.

An extremely likely “unlikely friendship” develops between the odd couple, built on conversations during various exercise regimes. They talk about their husbands as they power walk; one a corporate vulture, the other a modest middle manager at the same struggling factory. They speak of their children as they stretch; Val’s are high achieving and distant, Breda’s are generically scampish and warm. And by the time they reach yoga, they have changed profoundly; Val on the verge of self-insight, Breda half the woman she used to be.

This is all as edgy as a marshmallow, but that’s the intention, and director Caroline FitzGerald doesn’t apologise for the one-note jokes. Henderson and Mahon are personable performers who give the gags all the benefit of their consummate eye acting: widening, darting and rolling through a mild satire on body image, domestic turbulence and food fascism. There are hints, though, that Gallagher considered something slightly more nutritious: a recessionary backdrop that is more famine than feast; how food desire replaces appetites unmet elsewhere; or defining at least one of her characters in anything other than domestic terms (Breda has a job she never talks about).

Instead, the play concludes that a life of skinny denial is an isolating misery, while calorific indulgence makes you a more loving person. Now, that’s a regime most of us will try. But it’s going straight to our hips.

Until Jan 24