Review by Mikaela O’Sullivan
Detox by Minerva Theatre Co. is a modern day depiction of the rollercoaster that is health and wellbeing. This production was staged at Fringe Brisbane in the Hayward Street Theatre and was directed by Macarra Berthaly-Martyn. This comedy explores the effects of influencer culture on diet and general wellbeing, ranging from “dodgy diets” to “swamp juice”. From the direction to acting to costuming to the use of technology, this piece of theatre was a powerful device in capturing the mental struggle with body image and how an unhealthy relationship with fitness and diet can lead to eating disorders, mental health disorders and illness “How do I learn to love and appreciate my body as it is”.
In Detox we are presented with a group of friends, each on their own health and fitness journey. Genie feels inspired to lose weight and “shape up” so in response to this she consults a personal trainer, joins a fitness bootcamp and is in with the chance to win $1000. Seems simple right ? Genie continues her fitness journey long after winning the fitness bootcamp but begins to develop an unhealthy relationship with working out and food. Genie attempts to work out in any way she can whether that be in the gym or doing lunges as she walks around the house. Genie becomes disconnected from her friends over time leading her to feel alone and ultimately sick. This is perfectly depicted using the game show host to at first act as a motivator for the boot camp but then slowly becoming Genies’ unhealthy inner thoughts. The use of anonymous respondents’ recollections of their relationship with fitness and food was a useful tool to give each scene a different impact whether that be highlighting how nervous someone was to work out in the gym or how someone developed an unhealthy relationship with food. These memory-like moments between scenes helped to show that while these topics are being presented in a comedic tone they are real issues that need to be acknowledged and reflected upon. The respondents are real people and their stories deserve to be told. The actors switch from their main character to standing in the shoes of the anonymous respondents in a fluid way and their passionate embodying of character must be applauded.
Throughout the performance the comparison between healthy and unhealthy is presented through costuming. Genie is presented in gym clothes for the duration of the production showing that she lives and breathes the gym. Although Genie’s costume remains the same throughout the show this is contrasted with other characters changing costumes in almost every scene. In a game show style presentation Genie is presented to the different kinds of diet she can choose to “Shape up”- this style of presentation is cleverly depicted by costuming, as an example - the gluten free diet was dressed in dark grey tones and an oversized tracksuit pants “most people call me depressed and boring” while the vegan diet was presented in a flowy skirt and a tie dye t-shirt, this diet appears positive but Genie is advised that this choice of diet can lead to anaemia and depression. Using costuming to bring these diets to life was effective in characterising the positive and negative elements, bringing attention to the fact that “everything has risks” and while each diet may seem attractive on the outside, each one has its downfalls that can lead to various disorders and illness “beauty has pain now which one are you going to choose”.
In this unique comedy, social media usage and the impact of influencer culture is cleverly woven into the storyline through the use of lighting and technology. Projection is used during the performance to allow the audience to see the far fetched videos and posts on social media that are influencing the characters. As an audience we are presented with outrageous videos that exaggerate popular trends such as a youtube tutorial on how to make a “guilt free” cake recipe that will satisfy your cake cravings, substituting banana as egg and squeezing a sock for fungus. This projector was later used again to show what Genie can see as she is scrolling on social media longing for the perfect body. This was a great way of showing the expectations Genie had of herself and how this affected how she felt about her body on a daily basis regardless of the time she spent trying to live a healthy life. Projecting what the cast saw on phones and tablets allowed the audience to feel that we too were standing with Genie looking at the toxic content. Similarly, lighting was used as a way of highlighting the difference between reality and the fake reality of social media. Colourful rainbow lighting was used to portray the game show scenes and personal training sessions with influencer Gertrude. This rainbow lighting helped to highlight that everything on social media is filtered and presented to look amazing while in reality, we are never shown the dark times and the daily struggles. We are looking through a lens to a world that has been edited, filtered and pushed on our social feeds.
Detox is a comedic yet heartfelt depiction of the war within ourselves as we strive to be beautiful, fit and healthy. This production blends real personal experiences with comedic skits seamlessly to not only entertain but educate the audience about health struggles, eating disorders, mental health disorders and even illness. Much of which is influenced by the toxic body standards and lifestyles that social media sometimes promotes. Detox is a modern, necessary conversation about social media and body image and this is a show that I would go to see again in a heartbeat, it truly was art imitating life.