Dr Selflove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Thighs – Review

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By Jo Withers

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Adelaide local, Laura Desmond, bounds onto the stage at The Mercure Grosvenor Hotel to an almost entirely female audience. Appearing confident and relaxed, Laura affectionately greets the twenty-strong crowd whilst swigging from a cider bottle and dropping the F-bomb. I’m already sensing that the show will struggle to stay within the confines of its P.G. rating.

Laura tells us that she wants to talk about perspective. She has realised that she cannot control how other people see her, each one of us will leave her show with a different impression shaped by our backgrounds and accumulated values. Laura wants this information to empower us—if we realise that there is nothing we can do to control society’s perceptions, it will lessen the pressure to conform and allow us to enjoy being ourselves.

Laura then regales us with her life-history from age four to twenty-seven, highlighting significant factors which resulted in loss of happiness, self-worth and self-confidence. These segments are honest and relatable as Laura builds a picture of her early life, her struggles being mocked by her siblings, feeling misunderstood at school, despising her pubescent body and feigning seductiveness to attract unworthy males.

Laura paces her performance well, knowing when to pause for dramatic effect and when to accelerate the action, but her material sometimes lacks strength and detail. There is a feeling of skimming over the surface of things, of beginning to build a bigger picture without cohesively connecting the dots. Whilst this was alluded to in the show’s description, ‘A show which poses more questions than it answers’, I was left wondering why Laura chose this under-developed style. Laura touches on subjects such as gender identity, body dysmorphia, self-loathing and freedom of sexuality—all weighty topics which I feel warranted greater examination.

I also felt that Laura didn’t get the balance right between process of self-discovery and final resolution. The build-up of negative events was too swiftly summarised within the final concluding segment, leaving no real feeling of empowerment or sense that Laura had conquered her issues and truly learnt to love herself. 

This impression was heightened by Laura’s reliance on alcohol throughout the (P.G.) performance. And not just sips to quench her thirst—cider became a fundamental prop source. With bottle in hand from start to finish, Laura timed her glugs to coincide with important plot points, usually in the vein of ‘drowning her sorrows’ – ‘Mum said I’m pretty but not like other girls’ – big glug, ‘They stood and laughed at me’ – big glug, ‘We broke up’ – big glug. The connection between negative criticism and alcohol as a coping mechanism was obvious and in my opinion was not appropriate for a P.G. rated show.

3 ½ out of 5 Stars – Dr Selflove’s bedside manner was entertaining but her procedures lacked punch and left me doubting her diagnosis.

mindshare will be posting reviews of shows with mental health themes on our blog and social media channels throughout Adelaide Fringe. Stay tuned for more reflections from contributors living with mental health challenges and/or working in the sector.

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