REVIEW: ★★★ Sad About The Cows, Tristan Bates Theatre

Sad about the Cows’ strengths lie in its premise, a look at what life is for women living in a world where looks matter most.

Michelle Payne tells the story of Rachel, the quintessential girl next door. Rachel is a girl of her time, fan of Ariana Grande, seeking validation on Instagram and obsessed about her weight. From strict diet to Victoria Secret’s workouts, Rachel is sure that as her weight drops all her issues will disappear. 

Payne becomes the voice of a generation struggling with insecurities and trying to measure up to impossible standards imposed by social media. As her obsession grows, Rachel becomes more and more isolated. Her boyfriend leaves her as “he cannot date someone who doesn’t eat”. She becomes estranged from her friends who, as she highlights times and times again, are much fatter than her. Eventually she ends up alone in her room sobbing, faints, gets sick and wastes a job opportunity. She finally realises that the decisions she made could have irreversible effects on her life. The play could have been much darker but Payne manages to preserve a light tone thanks to bursts of humour and ultimately the inspiring message of acceptance.

Payne keeps the energy up throughout this solo performance and the audience engaged as she takes us on Rachel’s journey. Her writing is clever and her poems about eating disorders thought provoking. The production is simple but works well for the subject matter. The set has been cleverly designed and from catwalk on chairs to picking up clothes for a night out, it morphs as and when needed.

Sad About The Cows is a story of self-acceptance and ultimately self-confidence that has been told many times before. The play is a work in progress. It is mostly predictable and could definitely use some tidying up especially towards the end. Payne rushes to wrap everything up in a bow. Rachel starts eating real food again and thanks her parents for their support, the end. As a result the audience is left wanting more. Nonetheless Paynes leaves us with a positive and powerful message that encourages all young women to stop self-criticism and learn to love themselves.

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