I once appeared in a Daily Mail article because I am fat. No, I wasn’t one of the tragic headless fatties whose callipygian rears grace OBESITY CRISIS YOU’RE ALL GOING TO DIE AND YOUR CHILDREN WILL TOO public health announcements. It was a tiny reference in a long article (I was not named) and it happened because I told a journalist to eff off when she started to have a go at me and my fabulous fat friends because we refused to acknowledge the danger we posed to society by going around openly eating ice cream instead of flagellating ourselves with a stalk of limp celery for our fat sins. Cake Daddy is for anyone who is curious about binning the limp celery and the tabloid media approach to responsible behaviour.
Cake Daddy, starring Ross Anderson-Doherty, is a musical theatre/ quiz/ comedy/ interactive/ singing, dancing, eating sort of show. It played in Belfast as part of the Outburst Queer Arts Festival this year, and the storyline follows one man’s journey from successful Slimmer- to dangerously weight-obsessed ill person- to fat superhero. The play initially takes the format of a diet club called Cake Watchers which will be familiar to anyone who has ever participated in what I liked to call Fat Church (you go in, you pay, you weigh, and I love to say you nae-nae, but actually then you just sit down and cry because you gained two pounds because you ate too many bananas that week. This actually happened in one of the diet groups I attended. ‘Bananas,’ said the regretful lady next to me, ‘Are lethal’). At Cake Watchers, participants are encouraged to bolster their weightloss via meditations, inspirational group-singing and comparing forbidden treats to their least favourite politicians.
As someone who has dieted in various ways since they were a teenager, steadily gaining weight the entire time, I appreciated not only the humour in the first part of the show, but also the truth of it. Weight loss groups are so pervasive now that the raffle at my child’s primary school had a 6 week pass to the local Fat Church as one of the prizes. Everyone is doing it. But you will be hard pressed to find anyone who will openly say how ridiculous some of the rules are (eat unlimited pasta but count the calories in your avocados), or how shaming it is to queue for the toilets before you queue for the weigh-in in the hope of losing that extra little ounce. I’ve seen people strip off almost down to their underwear before they got on the scales. Honey, if you’re happy to do that in front of a bunch of strangers then why are you trying to change your body? Join a burlesque troupe instead. Much more fun.
Cake Daddy is the show that tells the truth about the nonsense, and it does it with laughter and stickers (stickers! My heart!) and audience-participation-singing. There was even a ‘here comes the science’ interlude, where Ross was joined on stage by the lovely Taylor-Jayne Tytler, referencing Linda’s Bacon’s research and the Health At Every Size movement, something which everyone who has ever been on the receiving end of the ‘I’m just worried about your health’ excuse for fat-shaming should check out.
One of the things I loved most about Cake Daddy was the middle section which was a little more serious. Ross is a phenomenal singer and everyone should hear him live at least once if they can. We’re spoilt in Belfast to be able to see him often but if he’s touring in your town then please go- you will be glad you did. For an audience to move from laughter to tears and back to laughter again is a pretty intense journey in the space of just over an hour. But it’s a wonderful intensity, and there is cake, which there always should be when emotions are high.
Five out of five cupcakes! A beautiful, vulnerable, hilarious, queer, fat-positive, visual and literal feast of a performance. With stickers.
Read more about Cake Daddy here.
Review written and published by Shirley-Anne McMillan.