Big women on the stage. By and large, they get a bum deal. If an operatic audience can translate a statuesque and well-fed soprano into a consumptive waif with tiny, frozen hands, and go home streaming snot and tears even though Mimi's build is more matronly than miniature, why should a theatrical audience not be asked to accommodate a curvaceous Cordelia, a jouncing Juliet, a delectably plump Helen of Troy?
Operatic suspension of disbelief does occasionally work in theatre - but usually it's for men. Simon Russell Beale can play Benedict, porcupine-grey and trundling in gait, and still be sexy. If plump little Ian Holm wants to strip off his kit as Lear, good luck to him. But big women tend to sell themselves - to have to sell themselves - not as young lovers or tragic heroines, but as "character" actors - the Mistress Quicklys, the bustling Nurses, the merry, buxom serving wenches on whose amply corseted bosoms you could rest a whole barful of tankards. My DD-cup runneth o'er. As Helen, the "plus-sized" heroine of Neil LaBute's Fat Pig, says: "Big people are jolly, remember? ... It's one of our best qualities."
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Big Women on the Boards
Imogene Russel Williams, on the Arts Blog at The Guardian: