Cecilia tells the story of a girl suffering from anorexia from the perspective of her three family members. There’s her mother who may regret missing the earlier signs, preoccupied with being unfaithful to Cee’s father Robert, whose heart is broken when he discovers his daughter throwing up in the bathroom. Daniel, her brother, is her closest ally who hopes that by helping her sneak out to go running as she loves to do, she’ll agree to eat and get better. The family are all on edge, struggling with their own anxieties but unified in their attempts to understand Cecilia.
Zoe Hunter Gordon wrote the play out of frustration with the silence surrounding anorexia:
I was faced with so many amazingly wonderful girls I knew - and was friends with - who had various eating disorders. I was frustrated because I couldn't understand it,and I also felt like they were being failed in some way. Some people shrugged off their behaviour as a phase, others seemed consoled by the idea that they were going to counselling. I realised, how few of us actually ask the sufferer - hey how are you, why are you behaving in this way, are you OK ? We're all terrified of confrontation and communication, but really communication can ultimately be what saves someone.
There are 1.6 million people currently suffering from an eating disorder in the U.K. Frighteningly, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with one in five sufferers dying from complications arising from the illness. In Cecilia, Cee’s mother Molly describes how she would push her food around her plate, chatting and laughing; distracting from the fact that she wasn’t eating any of it. People who suffer from eating disorders are able to hide their problems from even their closest loved ones. This secrecy makes it difficult for people to spot signs and symptoms, and can make it difficult to approach someone who is suffering for fear that they will deny it and further isolate themselves from the person who is concerned. However, there seems to be an increase in awareness, conversation and support surrounding these disorders: "There are some amazing charities doing incredible work and it's so inspiring to see positive blogging from sufferers about the issue which humanises it. This happens to people. It's not just a statistic." Companies like Inky Theatre are doing great work in getting conversations started by showcasing work that highlights the issues that people with eating disorders and their families face.
We are proud that Festival 45 is showcasing work about mental health issues that affect so many people but don’t always have a platform. The Smallest Story Ever Told has been produced by David Macintosh Loumgair in association with Alzheimer’s Society UK and draws from the playwright R J. Wilkinson’s first hand experiences of Alzheimer's disease. The State vs John Hayes sheds light on some of the psychological disorders that can lead people to commit heinous crimes. Although Cecilia finished it’s run with a sold out show on Sunday, you can still catch these two cracking shows at The King’s Head this month.