Chickenshed have pulled out the stops at the Edinburgh Fringe in a performance that is essential viewing. Interweaving multimedia, poignant and powerful dance and following the life of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer, this show explores the impact and realities of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. The emotional tensions and physical impact of the treatments are explored through voice-overs and the dramatisation that is beautifully performed. The tensions arising within the family, as the woman struggles to retain control over her bodily dignity are thrown into stark relief by the dance element of the performance. During moments of anger, the dance underlines the words and emotions that are unspoken, the things that they don’t say to each other, because they are afraid. The dance highlights moments of happiness and joy, memories of the past that the family remember and hold onto in the darkness.
The voice-overs are pre-recorded testimonials from cancer patients, both currently in remission and those still undertaking treatment, as well as their partners and children. Professionals working with cancer patients and treatment also talk about elements of dealing with cancer and the processes that patients undertake, what happens to the body when someone has breast cancer and what the aims of treatment are. These voice-overs lend extra depth to an already moving performance, and demystify the cliches that surround the disease and its treatment. The show opens up the experience of the disease in a way that neither treats the women as ‘fighters’ or as heroes for surviving, but instead looks at living with cancer as a volatile and changing relationship with the body, and as a journey.
Those who may be put off by the harrowing subject matter may be reassured that there are moments of laughter and light, since the show is effectively a meditation on love and being alive. The beauty of Slender Threads is that it is life affirming, and instead of taking away a feeling of dread and sadness, you are left feeling uplifted by the strength of human life, the need to survive and live fully. This show is inspiring, innovative and a definite must-see for all.