Without due respect

24th February 1995 at 00:00
RESPECT Royal Theatre in Education

Forget smiling, tubby Mr Pickwick; for 15-year-old "fat, ugly pizza-faced Debbie" chubbiness brings gradual despair. Taunted at school, her mother dead and her friend away, there's no relief at home, with hoax phone calls and criticisms from brother, strict dad and his new live-in girlfriend.

"Don't they realise I've got feelings?" she cries early on. If they do, they enjoy hurting them the more while Debbie soaks up the grief with alcohol, choc-bars and crisps, adding to her problem until she flings some pills into the stew with, it's suggested in the hour-long play's quiet end, lethal results.

Actor-writer Kevin Tomlinson researched Respect (for years eight to ten) around Northamptonshire schools, though any area would have thrown up similar concerns. Appearance (Suzanne Astelle's set cleverly intersperses a litter of glossy model shots with mirror fragments - how are you looking tonight?), shyness, loneliness, a parent's new partner and bereavement all cause self-estimation to nose-dive.

Tomlinson's fast-paced piece only resorts occasionally to "this-is-the-point" speeches in Lynn Wyfe's strongly acted production. A subsequent workshop explores attitudes and responsibilities, looking at more positive alternatives.

Touring Northamptonshire schools until March 17. Details: 01604 27566.

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