Funny, upsetting, engaging and slightly bizarre - Soft Tissue manages to deliver a lot in its 60 minute run.

Opening at Auckland’s Basement Theatre, Ella Gilbert’s debut show is a “conversation about how far we go to be celebrated, beautiful, and strong”. Soft Tissue stars Gilbert as almost a parody of a woman. Through disjointed movements and distorted speech the audience is presented with an uncomfortable female reality.

Confession – I actually arrived at Soft Tissue late. A serious theatre blunder in my opinion, and a mistake I think I have sufficiently berated myself for. Gilbert dealt with my awkward arrival particularly well, drawing attention to it and making the moment her own, instead of allowing the audience to be distracted. She presented me with a sped-up sequence of what she had performed so far. I may not have really understood what was going on, but the audience certainly enjoyed it by the sound of their roaring laughter.

Gilbert proceeded to showcase her adaptability and skill throughout the rest of the show. Full of intense stances and unsettling stares, Soft Tissue is almost draining to watch and must be exhausting to perform.

Directed by Jade Eriksen and mentored by Jo Randerson, Soft Tissue is the end product of four years of work. Having travelled internationally, all the way from Singapore to Iran, the confronting show is a meticulously crafted piece. This detailed composition is part of what makes it so interesting – and probably why despite its deceptive rawness and performance art nature, it never really feels like too much.

Soft Tissue is the type of show I’m often exhausted by, but in this instance I loved it.

Soft Tissue runs in Auckland until this Saturday. Tickets are available here.


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