Theatre review: Fat Blokes, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

For many of us it’s the last acceptable prejudice, the damning, shaming and marginalising of fat people; and as one of the Fat Blokes, Joe Spencer, points out during the show, it has also become a matter of class, with those who lack access to expensive healthy foods judged and dismissed as undisciplined no-hopers, entirely responsible for their own plight.

Gez Mercer in Fat Blokes PIC: Holly Revell

Theatre review: Fat Blokes, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh ****

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The Fat Blokes, though, are not having any of that any more and this remarkable show – co-commissioned by the South Bank Centre and Home, Manchester, presented and directed by the writer and artist Scottee, and featuring four other fat gay blokes some of whom have never performed in public before – is their cry of rage, strength, grief and laughter against the assumptions and prejudices that have until now dominated their lives.

Scottee starts with a challenge, demanding to know why the audience laughs when tall and large Joe Spencer begins a strip routine; and it continues in the same mood of fierce self-assertion with Lea Anderson’s brilliant choreography, and some superb red-toned lighting by Marty Langthorne, playing a key role in capturing the rage, loneliness and new-found solidarity of a magnificent group of men, which also includes dancer and singer Sam Buttery, club-dancing Scouser Gez Mez and finance executive Asad Ullah, who loves other men’s fat bodies but cannot love his own. What emerges is a show that’s not always smooth, but invariably thrilling; and the whoops of joyful support and celebration from a packed audience suggest that with Fat Blokes the theatre of queer and previously silenced voices has moved into new political, physical and emotional territory, that richly needed this kind of well crafted, heartfelt and honest exploration. - Joyce McMillan