Arabella Weir: The Real Me Is Thin

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Perhaps ironically for a show about body image, Arabella Weir’s show – or barely glorified book reading, as it should more accurately be billed – offers pretty slim pickings in the first half.

Here she reads from the largely autobiographical novel named after her Fast Show catchphrase Does My Bum Look Big In This? From these extracts, the 12-year-old book seems very much like listening to the repeated, tediously self-pitying complaints of a comfortably-off woman whose only real concern is what size skirt she can squeeze into. ‘It’s more important than life or death,’ her fictional alter-ego asserts, spoken with a tiresome self-centred attitude. She clearly worries about a Kit-Kat for the calories, not for the ethics of Nestle.

Her target demographic is the considerable proportion of women who feel the same, and there’s certainly plenty of sympathy for her plight in this half-full Leicester Theatre; if not all that many laugh. But then these passages were never designed to have the frequent punchlines of a stand-up set. However, like many long-suffering boyfriends and husbands, I just want to sigh ‘you look fine, love’ and to move off this never-ending circular topic and on to something about which I could give a damn.

More than a decade on, her new book The Real Me Is Thin promises to go beyond the superficial, and delve into why so many women feel defined entirely by their looks, whose self-worth is determined by a few pounds, not by their accomplishments. ‘The most a girl can achieve is being thin and pretty,’ Weir states; being a valuable member of society, such as a doctor is secondary.

At this live event, she doesn’t really get too deeply into this – though she suggests the book might. However, she does reveal the reasons for her own body-image issues lie in her peculiarly tough Scottish upbringing, with a father who told her he loved her more when she was thin, and a mother who once served up dog food and mash. Even if they don’t address the wider issue, these are eye-opening stories, although again designed for the page more than the stage. Quite why she chose to read a particularly long-winded passage describing how the exact topology of her kitchen led to a gap next to the cooker is a mystery.

After 45 minutes of book reading comes a Q&A in which the question ‘what is your favourite biscuit?’ was genuinely asked. But despite the paucity of the interrogation, Weir proves a more entertaining speaker off the cuff than when reading from her published work.

With her best anecdotes and a bit of insight, there would surely be surely a decent show in this. But as it is, this is a half-cocked idea designed more to shift copies of the book – signed copies in the foyer after, by the way – than it is a standalone live show.

Review date: 14 Feb 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Leicester Little Theatre

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