Tissue

Mon 20th – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Mel Melville

at 10:35 on 22nd Aug 2012

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Tissue is a production that delves into the journey of a woman and her struggle with cancer whilst reminiscing about the days before her breasts developed. The audience follow the same character through the young years of yearning for puberty to take its toll through to where a developed woman is forced to face her demons. Sally and the ensemble tell the story through stage pictures, dance and narration whilst introducing us to a series of characters and showing tiny glimpses into other people’s lives and professions. Muchmuchmore Theatre Company have created a powerfully sharp ensemble that can swiftly morph into a convincing car, provide a plausible shower experience and turn into a personal hygiene kit in a flicker of movement.

Although the physical theatre is obviously the main exciting aspect of this production, the acting certainly needs a bit of work. Kirsty Jackson plays Sally and despite her driving the ensemble and grasping our attention from the very start, the characterisation is poor. Other than a breast size or two, Sally doesn’t seem to change very much from a child to a woman leading to difficulties in following the story. When the ensemble is together they are undoubtedly strong but individually there is a lot of room for improvement. We should have embarked on an emotional rollercoaster but unfortunately very little empathy was evoked due to unbelievable characters.

Amongst the gloom and doom of the discussion of cancer, there are plenty of playful scenes. Sally appears to jump into some kind of exercise in stupidity where her scatty friend convinces her that increasing your bust lies in the power of stamina and a willingness to do ridiculous arm motions. The ensemble are a true pleasure to watch and you will find yourself staring at them just waiting for them to create the next emotion, structure or scene, showing their extreme versatility.

Powerful music choices help draw out emotions amongst the audience but this play deserves an awful lot more tears. Light and music cues are sometimes a little delayed and this certainly didn’t help the already slow pace of the performance. There is no doubt that this production is bursting with imaginative and well thought out ideas, it simply needs the believability factor. Perhaps the cast members are slightly too inexperienced to be convincing in a play dealing primarily with cancer.

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Thomas Brada

at 01:49 on 23rd Aug 2012

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'Tissue' is a powerful piece of contemporary theatre which certainly had the couples ahead of and behind me scrambling for their hankies. The play immediately sets out to unflinchingly seize and utterly unsettle its audience as we are introduced to the breast cancer afflicted young woman, Sally. Throughout the performance Sally is defined by the lump in her breast which throws her into emotional and physical turmoil. The visual elements of the production are immediately effective in conveying some of the most poignant issues surrounding the malignant illness. The deep red, in which every character except for Sally is garbed, is symbolic on two disparate levels. On the one hand, the vibrant red holds connotations of sex appeal and seduction which resonates with the play's pressing concern with the female form. This benign suggestion is menacingly juxtaposed with the alternate connotations of blood and raw flesh which resonate with the gruesome details of Sally's septic surgical wounds.

In contrast to this red, Sally is dressed throughout in plain white clothing, emphasising her youthful innocence and sinisterly enhancing the sense of tragedy at her indiscriminate affliction. The play repeatedly asserts Sally's absolute innocence and wretched misfortune as it jumps back and forth in chronological frenzy (perhaps mimetic of her internal sense of confusion?) between her early years of yearning for a buxom figure and the terrible fate which comes to afflict this very same area.

The action flits between bizarre and ironic scenes of pre-pubescent girls flailing their upper limbs while chanting ' I must, I must, I must increase my bust', to the sombre post-operation scenes in which Sally's emotional and physical wounds are still terribly recent and painfully raw. As the audience trace the narrative of Sally's developing bosom, the show also manages to subtly examine other poignant issues such as vanity, loyalty and the conflicting emotions and intense strain placed upon varyingly sympathetic friends and the distressed and distraught family.

'Tissue' is a very organic piece of theatre which relies heavily on the creative talents of its performers. At various points the chameleonic performers enhance the bare stage with very human representations of, at one point, a running shower and at another, a car with active windscreen wipers and all!

Probing such issues as adolescent aesthetic insecurity and the horror of the unexpected, 'Tissue' is not a piece of theatre for the faint of heart. At each moment of subtle humour or impressive physical manipulation, the audience is constantly reminded of Sally's awful condition. For all that I have gushed over this performance I ought to say that it is only a pretty good (although morbidly melodramatic script) performed well, rather than a fantastic script performed fantastically. At times 'Tissue' is at risk of lapsing into the overly melodramatic, but the ensemble cast work in hypnotic unison to create a uniquely haunting and harrowing piece of theatre, simultaneously enchanting to watch and troubling to digest.

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