Review by Rhys Tarling
Tissue, from the crisp sound design by Leanne Puttick to the creative staging by co-directors Samantha Maclean and Tim Green and to the energetic performances by performers Taryn Ryan, Ann-Marie Biagioni, and Eli Melvin, has all the hallmarks of a slick production. And indeed it is that. Unfortunately, much like a nervous teenager hastening to unfasten his first girlfriend’s bra, it fumbles a little with its profound ideas and themes. It even occasionally flirts with incoherence, although it must be admitted that that helps us to empathise with the main characters, who struggle to understand their desires and are at a loss as to what they expect from each other, so we’ll call it a wash.
Tissue begins with a guy (Elijah Melvin) waiting for his download to finish. To kill time he indulges in some late evening whacking-off, a decision aided by two loud inner-voices (played by Taryn Ryan and Ann-Marie Biagioni). One gets the feeling that the guy is unable to control his impulses and when we find out later that he’s been without human intimacy for a number of years, it makes a sad sort of sense. It’s a great start that excellently articulates the internet’s insidious effect on the user which is, in essence, to kill our toleration for boredom, and it’s full of twitchy, mad energy.
If only Tissue had eased up a little. The guy, who we later find out is a chef, meets a shy veterinarian (Taryn Ryan), and the two embark on a relationship. Tissue rushes past their courtship, strangely unable to shake off the overly caffeinated feel of the first 10 minutes. Before you can blink, they’re bored with each other and try a number of things (sexting, mainly) to spice things up. This creates some more problems and reveals some deep-seated sexist ugliness, which is compelling and confronting and true and all those good things you look for in art. And then it’s over! Tissue builds to its most interesting point and then stops. There’s a blue balls joke to be made, but I’m just lazy enough to leave it at that. Tissue has some pacing problems, there’s no two ways about it.
The two actors are able to overcome Tissue’s deficits to an impressive extent. Ryan and Melvin give textured, nuanced performances – Melvin as the “nice guy” who is uncomfortable in his own skin and Ryan as the shy person who embarks on a journey of self discovery. Their fumbling around with each other in bed is uncomfortably funny, with a few true and hilarious moments that, amusingly, barely elicited a giggle from the crowd, as a giggle would be tantamount to a dirty confession to a room full of strangers. The third actor, Ann-Marie Biagoni, gamely determined to carry the whole thing on her back or die trying, is seemingly three different characters in any given scene and it’s difficult to discern which one sometimes. It’s not a deal breaker by any stretch but it is indicative of a larger truth – Tissue is a few more polishes away from truly shining, though it’s not without its bright spots.
Tissue runs until 26 November at The Blue Room theatre. For tickets and more information, visit the Blue Room website here.