One-woman show How to Die of a Broken Heart is the first full-length piece from emerging writer and performer Femi Martin in which she tells the humorous but dark story of how heartbreak changed her body and her life forever (Brighton Dome Founders Room, Saturday, February 25, 3pm and 6pm).
Full of uncomfortable moments, full of truths, full of laughs, Femi ‘loves’ her way through life, all the while developing the chronic illness achalasia, a rare disorder of the gullet, which has no known cause.
Through stories of her failed relationships, Femi illuminates both the beauties and the dangers of loving someone – against a backdrop of five years of being unwell.
“The show originally came from the idea that I just wanted to share stories from previous relationships. I relayed the stories to friends. It just developed from that in a more interesting way, that I wanted to explore why these relationships had actually ended. Of course, you do explore that at the time, but I wanted to do it more artistically rather than just thinking ‘Oh, he did this’ or ‘He did that.’
“And I didn’t realise what a dangerous thing to do that was until I was walking down the path! You are looking at all the mistakes you have made, and the way you dissect it all is different for art than it was in real life. You can’t just say ‘It was them!’ I think you have to do it in a more honest way. Some of those moments are very uncomfortable, and yet somehow I still stayed. Working on the show with my director, we realised that we were not showing the break-up itself. The break-up takes place because of all the things that have preceded it.
“There are three or four relationships, probably four different men that I talk about.”
So what do the chaps think? Are they given their say?
“Well, they are free to do their own one-person show if they like, talking about me! I would find it very interesting. But I know that this is my truth. I would hope that I have been fair to them. I am just showing the moments that occurred. I am not making grand comments on the whole relationship. I am just relaying these moments.”
As for the common thread: “There is something about control in a lot of the relationships, them controlling me. But I think it was also me, looking for somebody that would control me because I was a bit lost. I think I was looking for an anchor in my life. This was happening at the time that I was developing my illness…”
She lived with the illness for five years, but things are now considerably better following a procedure called Heller myotomy, a surgical intervention in which the muscles of the cardia are cut, allowing food and liquids to pass to the stomach.
“I can eat and drink now. I am doing very well. There are plenty of people who don’t have such success stories. I can pretty much eat and drink what I like now. I just need to have water on hand to push the food down if need be.”
Femi was appointed the Dickens 2012 Young Writer in Residence in February 2012. Tickets on 01273 709709.
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