Michael Livesley has shed 10 st 4lbs in weight. In his Edinburgh debut show Half the Man, he will reveal how, and why. On August 1st 2018 Michael woke up hungover, morbidly obese and clinically depressed in the middle of yet another lost summer day spent isolated indoors with the curtains firmly shutting out the rest of the world. This was a typical day for a man who lay on the sofa so long that the hair on his left leg stopped growing. Performing at the Free Fringe this year, Michael tells The Fountain why you should head to his show.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?
Very exciting. I’m not really sure what to expect. I’m going way out of my comfort zone and the show is the most personal project I’ve ever contemplated. As I sit here attempting to write it, it keeps dawning on me just how personal it actually is.
TF: Half the Man certainly sounds interesting, what is the premise?
Essentially it details the voyage of discovery I unwittingly embarked upon when I got on the scales last year and realised I had over ten stone in weight to lose. At the time I was a reclusive, morbidly obese drunk suffering from depression and anxiety. Literally going nowhere and totally miserable. The general consensus is that losing weight is a purely thermodynamic process – eat less, move more, lose weight – which at a chemical level is true, but that straightforward process is one complicated by emotional baggage. And the more weight you have to lose the more ‘s**t’ you have to work through. My intention is to shine a light on that, on why it is so difficult to lose weight when you have been literally eating and drinking your emotions for decades. There are thousands of people in that boat. Believing that their lives are hopeless, I certainly did. I wanted to write about this process as a way not only to help others, but also as a catharsis for myself and to have a laugh at it all. Laughter is the best way to explore and demystify this process, and not just for those in the same position. I wanted to explore not only what led me there, but also how I came back. It’s not a straight line from there to now. There have been plenty of bumps in the road.
Once I had stripped myself back both physically and psychologically, I didn’t know who I was. Who was I outside of this ‘larger than life’ persona? A persona which now seemed to be little more than a coping mechanism? I was Half the Man in every sense possible. I had to rebuild myself, and to do that I needed to pick myself apart from the roots up.
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
I would say that my influences have remained constant throughout my life. I was brought up in a very tight knit Northern mining community, where everybody knew each other’s business and adversity led to people seeing the funny side of life more often than not, even during the Miners’ Strike. I grew up around a lot of funny people, people who had not had an easy ride through life. Even though I am only talking about 30 years ago, the stigma my late Mum faced due to being a single Mother in that place was pretty brutal, and in her diaries she documents how tough life was. The show is as much about the struggles she and my Nan faced raising me as it is about me. There are a lot of forgotten people and lives I wanted to bring back to life. So one of my primary driving forces in writing this all down was to celebrate them, their hard work and thew debt of gratitude I owe them. But there will be laughs too – promise!
TF: Have you been to the Fringe before, is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh?
I have only been to the Fringe once before, to take part in a discussion as part of the International Book Festival, which runs at the same time. It was that experience, which made me want to come back and do something of my own. I don’t really know what to expect beyond fun, hard work and discovery. There is a LOT that I want to see.
TF: And what are your future plans beyond Half the Man?
My hope is that I will be able to create something that people like and enjoy enough to tour it. I have already begun to document this journey in videos on my YouTube channel and it would be wonderful if the show could have a positive influence beyond itself, inspiring others who lock themselves away from the world to change their lives and realise that they are worth the effort. To help people become half the man or woman they are but twice the person.
You can see Half the Man at Maggie’s Chamber @ Laughing Horse from 1st – 26th August at 20:15, as part of Free Fringe