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Theatremaker Katie Greenall: ‘Your size shouldn’t limit which character you can play’

Katie Greenall in Fatty Fat Fat. Photo: Helen James Katie Greenall in Fatty Fat Fat. Photo: Helen James

Theatremaker and workshop facilitator Katie Greenall is taking her one-woman show Fatty Fat Fat to London’s Vault Festival. She tells Giverny Masso about the importance of boundaries when producing a one-person show and finding space for her story…

Tell me about Fatty Fat Fat…

This is my first piece of theatre work. I was thinking about castings and how there is no one who looks like me in shows I was seeing on stage or in films or TV. I felt if I was going to play the ‘fat parts’ then I had to get fatter – I was too thin to play fat people but too fat to play ‘normal’ people.

Why did you feel it was important to make this piece?

Your size shouldn’t limit which character you can play – theatre should hold a mirror up to society and there are plenty of people who look like me who are not shown on stage and whose stories are eradicated. The stories that are given space for fat people are often about promoting weight loss or being sad about how you look. This show isn’t about saying ‘this is my body and I love it’, because that isn’t my truth – the show is about life. It is built around anecdotes and how my relationship with my body has changed based on people’s reactions.

Has it been challenging to make a one-person show?

At first it was really difficult, but I was inspired by seeing other autobiographical work, such as Bryony Kimmings’. I think there is a danger in one-person theatre of getting on stage and exorcising demons in a way that is not safe for the performer or the audience. That is something I’m wary of – to make sure I am safe and the audience is safe. The reaction has been really positive. People who are fat seemed to be moved by it and people who are not fat but have had complex relationships with their bodies also related to it.

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How did you get into theatre?

I went to East 15 to do a degree in community theatre and I’m now a full-time freelance workshop facilitator. I do workshops ranging from musical theatre for three-year-olds at Theatre Peckham to live art at the Yard in London or working with teenagers at the National Youth Theatre. My passion is taking theatre to people who might not normally have access to it, or taking it outside of conventional spaces.

What is your advice to other artists who are creating a one-person show?

You have to really want to do it in order to make the work. If I hadn’t needed to make this show it wouldn’t be on. My advice would be to take care of yourself and the people around you. Think about how you are sharing it and share it with a few people first for reflections. If you don’t want to read it to them it means you’re probably not going to want to perform to a group of strangers. If you have
a story, tell it. I was told at East 15 that theatre has existed for 2,000 years and the only thing we haven’t seen on stage is you. Everyone has a story.

CV: Katie Greenall

Training: National Youth Theatre (2013), BA in acting and community theatre at
East 15 (2014-17)
First professional role: Workshop facilitator at Theatre Peckham
Agent: None

Fatty Fat Fat runs at Vault Festival, Waterloo, London from January 30 to February 3. More information is available at: vaultfestival.com

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