Cyst-er Act, which is serendipitously held in Summerhall’s Dissection Room, tells the journey of Catherine Hoffman‘s journey of having ovarian cysts. Using help from her ‘poly-cysters’ played by Sarah Jane Grimshaw and Sherrone C, Hoffman uses music, dance, props and the performers’ own bodies to tell her experience. Expertly matching the emotional with the educational, the story resonates both with those who have never encountered ovarian cysts as well those with first-hand experience.
Hoffman begins the performance with a loud and chaotic song and dance, which helps to drive home the confusion felt by misdiagnosis and the lack of clarity at the onset of the illness. She then begins to embrace her new bodily companion, even naming it after Leonard Cohen. The story then moves through various different stages of the illness, including operation, each step with help from her ‘poly-cysters’. In addition to experiencing the removal of ‘Leonard’, Hoffman also had an ovary and fallopian tube removed. Obviously, this can provide confusion as to how she feels about her self, sexuality and age. The remainder of the show focuses on her acceptance of these changes, and contains impressive dance, costume-use, and a remarkably impressive recreation of Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.
Although the story uses incredibly well thought out songs and dances to tell some of the more serious moments in a silly way, the key messages of the show should resonate most with audiences. The journey highlights that in the end, regardless of the issues you may have with your body, there is nothing inherently wrong with you. Although you may lose diseased parts of your body, you can still be whole as a person. When people encounter unexpected medical illnesses and do not necessarily receive the most supportive advice from friends, family, and doctors it is easy to lose sight of these key messages.