When it comes to a somewhat frightening topic like cancer, many of people seem to automatically shut down emotionally when talking about it, almost denying it exists. However, this is not the case with local theatre company Speak Up! Act Out!
An extremely insightful and powerful experience
Three extremely strong performers in the form of Angela El-Zeind (who also created and directed this piece based on her own experience with breast cancer), Chess Dillon-Reams, and Aurea Williamson came together and created Rebel Boob. It's a play that looked at inspirational real stories from men and women who had suffered from breast cancer, and not only acknowledged the pain associated with it, but also cleverly transformed that pain using monologues, video and dance to channel the simple, yet powerful message that this experience in a way could release fears and doubts to transform someone into a stronger person who appreciated life more than before.
Being a difficult subject to cover, there was always going to be a risk of triggering someone watching Rebel Boob. However, it was clear that the detailed and thorough research had been done by working with local cancer charities to show in a positive and sensitive way, that change was a huge part of the process, and the cast embraced each different emotion of each story with dignity. Even though this piece was in the beginning phases of transition itself into something bigger, the performances, music and dance already had a very strong framework with so much variation in speed, physicality, stillness and more to produce an extremely insightful and powerful experience. Using nothing but a couple of boxes and an empty floor space to move in, as well as a higher, empty stage with a screen showing visuals that complimented the individual performances, Rebel Boob seemed like it was not just a stage play, but an interactive and engaging learning experience that resonated with all of us emotionally even if we hadn't experienced cancer ourselves.
One thing that could be slightly improved is the tech aspects of this show. A couple of times the sound did threaten to overwhelm the actors making it hard to listen to them. Also, in moments of listening to the stories, there were beautiful dances to complement the monologues. Due to the neutral light flooding the stage in those sections, it was a little difficult at times to know where to focus your attention. This could be easily rectified by making sure the light just focuses on the movement with the words in the background to make it more visually and orally stimulating so we could concentrate on the emotions generated.
This part of things aside, Rebel Boob was not just about breast cancer, but about community spirit, uplifiting each other during uncertainty, joy and more. El-Zeind had created something that I believe will grow into something special by not only spreading awareness, but also change perspectives on how we see cancer. This was an experience not to be missed.