City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Close to You Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 07 August 2013

Jennie Eggleton and Adam Sowter in Close to You
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Jennie Eggleton & Sonia Fraser
Running time: 
Jennie Eggleton (writer), Anna Simpson (director), Sarah June Mills (designer)
Jennie Eggleton (Jennie), Adam Sowter (pianist)

The stage creates a celebrity’s dressing room: mannequins draped in a fur coat, pearls and lacy négligée beside two full length mirrors, and on the bed a pile of clothes. A pianist in tailcoat takes his place at the keyboards at the back within a large mirror frame.

Jennie, a pretty, blonde twentysomething girl, comes bouncing in, excited with a hint of nerves as she explains she is at a theatre audition. She looks around at the other girls, jealous of those who are taller, prettier, thinner and her confidence vanishes in an instant.

Her pursuit of fame is driven by her childhood idol, Karen Carpenter, whose natural velvety voice drew millions of fans in the 1970s. With her brother Richard, the Carpenters was one of the biggest-selling musical acts of all time for numerous hit songs, "Goodbye to Love", "Yesterday Once More", "Close to You."

Softly playing in the background we hear the occasional melody of these well known tunes, as Jennie herself becomes immersed in Karen’s life and music.

Yes, the singer was adored as a successful, global superstar, but behind her happy smile she was desperately ill, starving herself to skeletal thinness; as a role model, this is dangerous.

And so we watch Jennie slowly become more and more obsessed by her appearance, weighing herself daily after breakfast (a cup of Earl Grey tea and a crispbread) - 48kg, 43kg, 34 kg. She stares at her body in the mirror and covers her “curves” with a baggy jumper.

She is outwardly happy-go-lucky, bubbling with energy in the company of her friends. But inside she feels helpless, confused and guilty, trapped in her lonely hungry hell. She wants to eat a piece of quiche, but terrified of the “blobs of fat”.

The play is neatly constructed from quiet moments revealing her own private fears to dramatised scenes such as coffee with her mother or a serious interrogation with a doctor. These vignettes, where she switches seamlessly between both roles are masterclasses in character acting and the expression of pure emotion.

Jennie Eggleton (who also wrote this play), is quite simply breathtaking in the role of Jennie with her sudden shifts of mood from gleeful elation to utter despair. Be prepared for a rollercoaster ride.

“Close to You” vividly dramatises the truth about anorexia and the sufferer’s loss of identity. Why does no-one understand, you almost hear her shrieking inner voice: if only I can be thinner, she believes, people will like me.

Show times

2 - 17 August, 2013, (not Sunday 11th). 2.45pm

Ticket prices

£8 (£5)