“Tissue” by Louise Page
Lace Market Theatre.
Lace Market Theatre.
“Tissue” is a play about breast cancer. It follows the journey of Sally Bacon (as in eggs) as she goes through the ups and downs, and the support she receives from family and friends, facing the path that lays ahead of her. It also shows the effects it has on her family which sometimes can often be forgotten.
The play time-skips backwards and forwards to cover Sally’s timeline of events which, to start with seemed a little confusing, but you soon get used to that and you become completely enveloped in this intimate, emotive and daring piece of contemporary theatre. You follow Sally’s reminiscing of her longing for puberty all the way through to the most poignant, emotional and physical turmoil of discovering that lump and her mastectomy..
There was a time when this hideous disease was mainly accredited as a “woman’s thing”, but over the years, we know that men are also just as susceptible to breast cancer as well. To dismiss this play as a woman’s play would be ignorant on the part of the male species.
We're taken through that feeling of feeling unattractive to her partner and the feeling of not being whole, as a woman. These things, as well as the whole horror of discovery, uncertainty and realisation, as well as acceptance is something that an actor can only depict through research and drawing on acting skills.
Making an audience member believe and feel the emotions of the character is, possibly , one of the hardest tasks an actor can hope to achieve but these three achieved just that.
Don’t be fooled though into thinking that this is all doom and gloom because there are plenty of lighter scenes. The teenage Sally’s mantra of “I must, I must, I must increase my bust” brings a smile to the face, this being a complete contrast to the post-op scenes of the mastectomy.
“Tissue” relies heavily on the talents of the actors and Kirsty Guest (Sally) really makes you feel what her character feels. Her anger, disappointment, fear, uncertainty, the trust she has in her brother, Simon. When she catches your eye during parts of the speech it really is as if she is talking directly to you.
Malcolm Todd plays all of the male roles and the quick changes from the doctor, to brother, to father to lover to ex partner makes this role not the easiest for an actor. There's a lovely comedy section where, as Sally's brother he wanted to see her breasts to compare them with the glossy pictures he, and his friends had found
There are also several scenes as Sally's partner when he dismissed the lump as being brought on by Sally for being frigid and refusing to help examine her breast for the lump. These scenes create little globules of emotion in the viewer but so fast is the pace that you feel another emotion, whether it be humorous or otherwise,
Dawn Price, who played all of the other female roles is the same as Malcolm. The rapid turnaround of roles keeps you on your toes and the story tight. Another actor who deserves praise for character change accuracy. There's also a lovely scene where Dawn plays the part of a double mastectomy patient. As a man you can't, I don't think fully understand what this, albeit life saving surgery, can do to the confidence of a woman, but Dawn, and Kirsty really make you think about it, carefully.
Directed by Clare Choubey, she has approached this really touching and brave production with great tenderness, and the pacy delivery made sure that you didn't dwell too much on each emotion and scene. I imagine that when you contract this heinous disease, life may seem to fly by with the same rapidity of these scenes.
Set in the upstairs studio, this intimate performing space creates the perfect atmosphere for this play.
I always stress the importance of the lighting and sound design as so much can be added, as well taken, from the scenes and Philip Hogarth (Lighting) and Philip Anthony (Sound) added to the heightened emotions and the comedic scenes. The opening piano piece and the closing "Ave Maria" were spot on.
For a challenging piece of theatre which will take you on a trip through almost every emotion, you need to see this play, and take a tissue, just in case.
A thoughtful piece if theatre which kicks off, what is going to be a wonderful season, “Tissue” is being performed at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 7 January 2017.