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September 17, 2018 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Soft Tissue

Soft Tissue is an abstract theater creation from Ella Gilbert.The play claims to be “an affectionate comedy about the absurd performances of the ‘weaker’ sex.
It moves between observations and conversations — explores the sexy, the grotesque and the beautiful parts of being human — and laughs at them along the way.” But what was presented was disjointed, unclear, and underwhelming — the intention of being a feminist commentary on society feels strongly under delivered.

Gilbert has made a brave attempt to say a lot with very little. There are only a few actual lines of dialogue throughout the piece, and the rest Gilbert tells with her body and by making sounds, mostly with her mouth. She does this well enough to construct a loose understanding of her piece, touching on the objectification of women’s bodies in media, particularly in rap music, the male “savior complex”, and the idea of women needing to be beautiful. But that’s about it. It felt as though Gilbert was hoping these small interactions would all speak for themselves, but as an audience member, they left me feeling confused and unsure of the connection of themes being presented.

Thematic and meaningful messages were lost in abstract interaction going on with the audience all throughout the performance. Some of Gilbert’s mouth noises were understandable, i.e. Gilbert getting the audience to tell her she was beautiful, but other parts of this interaction, and her responses, didn’t make sense, such as Gilbert pretending to be a cat and getting the audience to bark like dogs at her as she squealed and ran back stage. People were laughing, and willing to interact, but it felt like we were playing a game, and rather than it advancing the performance it got audience members so caught up in interacting that the story on the stage got lost. Several members of the audience gave it a standing ovation, but I wasn’t sure if that was because they’d gained an understanding I’d missed or because they wanted to show that they, above others, understood this abstract performance that had just taken place.
Abstract theatre has a place, but there was too much left unsaid in Soft Tissue for it to be able to communicate clear meanings and understandings to its audience. Ideas presented need to become more well rounded and transparent for the piece to resonate with wider audiences.
It must be said that regardless of what I did not enjoy about Soft Tissue, that Ella Gilbert is a wonderful performer. What she did bring to life on stage was passionate and intriguing, and I do sincerely hope she continues work on this piece, because it is full of so much potential.


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