Brighton Fringe 2021
Based on interviews with women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, ‘Rebel Boob’ is a multimedia performance which focuses on the recovery period following active treatment. It is a raw, funny and honest account of what happens when your life as you know it stops, and then starts again.
Performed by Angela El-Zeind, Aurea Williamson and dancer Chess Dillon-Reams, with choreography by Katie Dale-Everett.
‘Rebel Boob’ is a collage of several women’s very different experiences of breast cancer post diagnosis, staged in the hinterland of ‘what and where now’ and daring to face the minefield of a ‘new normal.’ It weaves multimedia – including sound, visuals, voiceovers, dance and even a sing-along – through a montage of monologues performed by three actors effortlessly.
It was born from interviews conducted by Angela El-Zeind following her own diagnosis and treatment aged 43. Working closely with local charities she has produced a very dignified, honest, sensitive, simply human piece; which dares to take on the ‘big stuff’ and tackle the often ignored sticky issues such as guilt, blame and intimacy related to illness; which I thought both brave and refreshing.
I often found the questions in my head being asked and answered (or not) aloud on stage, which to me was living proof of the production’s integrity. There were moments of humour too, including a sing-along composed of slang words for breasts displayed on screen – and tonight, by sheer fluke, a member of the audience took to the stage and accompanied on the ukulele, which felt like a real moment for all including the actors!
I thought the use of dance was most evocative and especially effective to depict issues such as the physical and psychological side effects of drugs, emotional turmoil, support and solidarity, which march and meander throughout. This is not a shy piece, and is not afraid to be angry or aggressive, but I never once sensed it to be about being a victim or indeed a heroine – but rather somewhere more real in-between. The audience is constantly reminded of what it is to be human, which I found both uneasy and wonderful at times!
From the start, ‘Rebel Boob’ takes no prisoners, and our shared vulnerabilities take centre stage while our hope and fears wait in the wings. In that sense – there is a sense of threat underpinning throughout, fed by stark or menacing snapshot visuals and staccato-type dance. There are tender moments too, that take on hopelessness, love and hope, beautifully depicted in word and movement. If there must be a conclusion to Rebel Boob for me it is simply that we never know what is around the corner and we certainly have no idea how we will deal with it.
‘Rebel Boob’ paints a portrait for women who have faced and continue to live in the company of an ugly unknown. Tonight’s performance was deservedly met with a ‘sell out’ box office and standing ovation which speaks louder than any words I could possibly use here – so go see it for yourselves on Saturday 26th June.