This is not conventional theatre. So if you’re expecting a cute play with a beginning, middle and end – where characters encounter a problem, suffer angst, experience a catharsis, and finish with a happy / sad ending – you’re in the wrong hall. Nevertheless, ‘Rebel Boob’ does contain all of those elements. But not necessarily in that order.
This performance draws on verbatim interviews with women who have been affected by breast cancer and surgery or recovery. But it explores this theme through dance, movement, dialogue and monologue. We hear voices of fear, despair, joy and love. There are also snippets of speech from medical professionals and counsellors. Yet the multimedia format isn’t over-adorned.
What do breasts signify? What does surgery mean. Women talk about this with a mix of dread, shame and fear – and sometimes with outrageous humour too!
One voice asks: “Are you a proper woman?”
“Yes, you are!” Says a second voice.
It’s no easy ride: “Is someone staring at you as you stand by the side of the swimming pool?”
“So what? Flaunt it!” Says one women who then jumps into the pool.Another woman arranged a photo shoot, to pay homage before the operation.
Sadness and depression were certainly represented in this work. But there was also plenty of joy and excitement in the performance as well as patches of raw humour enacted by the cast of three: Chess Dillon-Reams, Aurea Williamson and Angela El-Zeind.
For me, there were sometimes too many words and so the choreography, by Katie Dale-Everett, was crucial in providing space for the animation of emotions. The sequence of body movements – gymnastic and balletic – offered an abstract expression of those complex feelings. This was complemented by the sensitive lighting (operated by Lily Wilson and designed by Strat Mastoris) for this performance at Brighton Girl’s School.
‘Rebel Boob’ represents the welcome return of director/actor Angela El-Zeind and the Brighton-based Speak Up! Act Out! theatre company. They started work in examining social change issues in the local community back in 2018 and have quickly gained a reputation for innovative immersive events. This new production was no exception. We’re glad they are back.
Note: For further information on the issues raised by this production, The Speak Up! Act Out company recommend visiting the websites of Macmillan Breast Cancer Support, Breast Cancer Now, and Cancer Research UK.
Words by Mike Aiken
Photographs by Dave Myers