Preview: Lean

I popped into a Lean rehearsal to watch a few scenes and interview the cast and directors: Robbie Taylor Hunt (Director), Bea Svistunenko (Assistant Director), Gabriel Cagan (Michael), and Rose […]

anorexia Cambridge Corpus Corpus Playroom Lean Tab Theatre

I popped into a Lean rehearsal to watch a few scenes and interview the cast and directors: Robbie Taylor Hunt (Director), Bea Svistunenko (Assistant Director), Gabriel Cagan (Michael), and Rose Reade (Tessa).

I only saw 10 minutes of the play and it looks promising. Cagan and Reade clearly work well off each other, communicating as much when silent as when active. They embed the anorexia issue of the play within their characters’ relationship, making me want to see more and removing the potential for the social aspect of the play to seem artificial.

The actors, Cagan and Reade

The potential is there for ‘Lean’ to be an engaging look at an issue so often glanced over in everyday life. At the least, it should certainly make you think.

After watching the scenes, I asked them some questions.

Will: How’s the rehearsal process been so far?

All: Good! Rose: We’ve got through half the play in a short space of time. Robbie: The first half of the play has more comedy and lighter parts, so we’ve been able to really talk through and try out different ways of doing things. It’s gone really naturally.

Will: Do you each have a part of the play you’re most excited to work on or perform?

Gabriel: I think we’re probably most excited about doing the end. Rose: But we’re not going to tell you what it is. It just all builds up and explodes. Explosions are the best thing. Bea: There’s ‘the lightbulb scene’ which I’m excited for both technically and emotionally. It’s going to be a fun one to do.

Robbie: For the audience, I’m actually really excited for the humour. People might come in expecting something really gritty, so the humour will be some nice relief. Also, the way that Michael comes across as an anorexic, and how Tessa, as the carer, behaves around him in this frank, almost unsympathetic way. You just get everything in a way you never see on TV or anything.

Dramatic. She must be a really good actress.

Will: Robbie, what’s it like working on a play with just two actors?

Robbie: (laughs) Well how are you guys finding it? Gabriel: I think it’s great. Rose: As an actor it’s the best thing ever. There’s nothing nicer than just playing off someone else. Gabriel: I guess it’s got a daunting side, but it’s a good daunting.

Robbie: It’s really fun to get into these characters, where it’s just about the two of them. You always want to think about the character’s arc, and here we get to see every part of that.

Will: This term we’re seeing a lot of ‘social theatre’, or plays with social messages being programmed. How important do you think social theatre is?

Robbie: I think its super important, I’m so glad we’re seeing this happen. I felt really great as I was doing a play with a ‘good message’, and then I realised that so is everyone else! Rose: People often think theatre can just be pretentious people being silly, but it can be used as a force for change, and to open people’s minds to new things.

Gabriel: I think it becomes apparent this isn’t just a play about anorexia. It’s a very specific couple, with their own problems. It’s just like everyone going through these things, and you get to know them through the play. Rose: It’s like any relationship that struggles, just with loads of issues thrown at them. It could become patronising, but we’re keeping it rooted in the actual people.


Will: You describe the play as ‘unashamedly frank’ – do you think this play will be shocking or challenging for audience members.

Robbie: It’s not trying to be shocking in a blatant way, it’s certainly not over the top. The characters really talk about things openly: what Michael is going through, and how Tessa feels. Rose: They deal with it in quite a practical way. Robbie: But it is still really affecting, and perhaps shocking in the open emotion, and how the play confronts our perceptions of anorexia.

Rose: My perspective of anorexia was certainly changed when I first read the play. Hopefully it will change some stereotypes. Robbie: The play doesn’t go ‘it’s so hard for anorexics, I’m so sorry for them’, it says ‘this is what it is, and these are the harsh realities’. Bea: Without spoiling the plot, there is a shared grief which has a huge impact upon the way in which they deal with it.

Will: Is there anything you want to add?

Gabriel: I’m just really excited about putting it in front of an audience. Especially an audience here, where I think it could mean something to people. Robbie: Cambridge has its fair share of mental health issues, and whether this manifests in eating disorders or not it just shows that these issues are incredibly important.

You can catch ‘Lean’ at the Corpus Playroom, from Tuesday the 20th to Saturday the 24th of January, at 7pm. Tickets £5/6.