'Lean' returns to London to the new pub theatre N16 in 2015. This review was of the show's run in 2013.
Anorexia among men may well be under-explored territory, but Isley Lynn’s play is a pleasureless 90-minute fast. Her treatment of the subject is worthily plausible but also enervatingly grim.
‘Lean’ centres on a ferociously bossy young woman moving back into the empty home of her weedy ex-husband who is steadfastly starving himself to death. This is a man for whom orange juice is ‘too rich’ – and there’s no way Lynn’s about to see the funny side of that. Not that this play is really about anorexia. It’s actually about the guilt that comes with bereavement following the loss of a child – and that doesn’t exactly lighten the mood either.
No one’s asking for a feelgood take on the subject of eating disorders, but it’s not clear what we’re supposed to get out of Chelsea Walker’s earnest production. Her two actors certainly nail both characters to the pine table in designer Holly Pigott’s fully fitted grey kitchen set, complete with empty fridge.
Tim Dorsett's Michael is a bearded sparrow distracting himself from his self-destruction by watching ‘Countdown’ and doing sudokus. And Laura Hanna's Tessa fizzes with rage and resentment as the ministering wife who won’t eat unless her ex-hubby eats first.
The best bit is a kind of Russian roulette with ready meals when she conjures a succession of dishes from the oven, only to scrape them down the bin. And so they press onwards, peeping into the abyss. The integrity of their performances and Lynn’s writing is not in doubt. A compelling reason to see this play is. Patrick Marmion