The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie actor calls out theatre critic for calling her 'overweight'

Nicola Coughlan claimed this was the second time Philip Fisher had referenced her weight in a review

Roisin O'Connor
Saturday 16 June 2018 09:48
Nicola Coughlan as Joyce Emily (left) and Lia Williams as her titular teacher in ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’
Nicola Coughlan as Joyce Emily (left) and Lia Williams as her titular teacher in ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’

An online theatre guide has apologised after publishing a review which described actor Nicola Coughlan as “overweight”.

In a review of the acclaimed production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, performed at London’s Donmar Warehouse, critic Philip Fisher called Coughlan’s character an “overweight little girl”.

The offending description, which has since been removed, prompted the actor to complain on Twitter where she said it was the second time Fisher had seen a show she was in and “as part of reviewing the show he has also reviewed my body”.

She added that the remark, published on the British Theatre Guide (BTG) website, was “cruel” and pointed out that there is no reference to the character’s weight in the text for the production.

The character, Joyce Emily Hammond, 16, is introduced as a rich “delinquent” girl who wants to be part of Miss Brodie’s “set” of schoolgirls.

“Philip Fisher, I know you are a theatre reviewer and your body had no relevance to your job but maybe you’d like me to cruelly review it for you and post it online,” Coughlan said.

“#TimesUp on reviewing women’s bodies, when you should be reviewing their work.”

She said Fisher had mentioned her weight before, describing her as a “fat girl” in a review of a show she was in last year at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre.

The British Theatre Guide apologised “unreservedly for the offence caused by the wording of this review” adding that the “offending words have been removed”.

“While the reviewer may not have intended to offend, he accepts that it is not acceptable to use such descriptions in a review and not BTG policy,” it said.

“There’s no reference to the character’s weight at any point in the script, this was targeted to me and not for the first time,” Coughlan said on Twitter.

“My weight has no relevance to either the performance I gave in that or in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” she said.

She also called out Fisher for how he described a rape scene in another play, where he called it an “unfortunate incident” rather than a rape, and referenced the fact that the victim ”wore a skirt while cycling”.

Coughlan, who describes herself on her Twitter profile as a “small Irish acting person”, said the BTG apology was “tepid”.

She added: “I will accept it if going forward you realise why it was so offensive and never review another woman’s body again.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in