Forming the artistic portion of her PhD, Pauline Sherlock's Trapped Inside a Fat Old Lady is the auto-ethnographic ruminations of a middle-aged woman ranging on topics such as body image, mental health, intimacy and menopause. Through storytelling, stand-up and singing, Sherlock opens up on these and the impact they have had towards her journey of self-acceptance and self-love.
The show plays like a TED talk with Sherlock hooked up to a mic, pacing around the stage with small gesticulations and pausing between sentences as she smiles and looks out to the audience. This cool and calm demeanour puts her in a position of authority, which is particularly fitting as this is the story of her life, so we are swiftly drawn in and eager to hear all that she has to say.
Sherlock is warm and engaging and her ability to make you feel as if she is addressing you directly is impressive. There is a cheekines to her sincerity that makes her even more endearing to watch. The music is also a highlight of the evening, with three songs, varying in genre, sung by Sherlock. These are used well to convey her feelings and further open herself up to the audience.
Where Trapped Inside a Fat Old Lady falls short is that Sherlock barely skims the surface of her experiences and what they meant for her. As we learn of her dependency to food, specific examples of the what, where, when, how and why are missed, which had they been included, would have added deeper insights to her stories. The structure could do with some changes as well to ensure a smoother flow to each section of the show, and so that the audience is never left wondering what they are watching. At one point, she performs an act with a plate of trifle, which is ambiguous in its intent. It is only after its conclusion that Sherlock provides an explanation as to what was happening and we can start to appreciate the performance.
As the show comes to its end, Sherlock explains her answer to finding acceptance and love within her self. What Trapped Inside a Fat Old Lady would benefit from is sharing the moments that led her to this discovery.
Trapped Inside a Fat Old Lady was performed at The Butterfly Club between 21 - 23 November 2019.