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Cyst-er Act review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘spirited but muddled musical’

Catherine Hoffmann and her Poly-Cysters in Cyst-er Act at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Holly Revell Catherine Hoffmann and her Poly-Cysters in Cyst-er Act at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Holly Revell

The ovarian cyst that Catherine Hoffmann had removed weighed more than 10lb and distorted her body and hormones in a manner similar to pregnancy. Hoffmann decided to name her cyst-baby Leonard and use his conception and “birth” to create a musical about the female reproductive system, how it works and what can go wrong. Joined by her glamorous backing singers the Poly-Cysters, Hoffmann mixes original songs with repurposed hymns, tunes and musical anthems to shed light on the mysterious wonders (and hidden horrors) of the womb.

Women are not taught the basics about, let alone encouraged to celebrate, their ovarian health. Hoffmann’s Cyst-er Act is partially successful in creating a dance through all things anatomical. She’s the disco diva of our hearts – and other more intimate parts – trying to figure out how her fallopian tubes got themselves in such a knot.

Hoffmann’s irreverent humour works well as a juxtaposition to the pain, shame and embarrassment that women are still expected to put up with. Speculums are wielded by Hoffmann, Sarahjane Grimshaw and Sherrone C like a smear test courtesy of Charlie’s Angels.

The flow of information is on the light side and it feels like a missed opportunity not to expand the material beyond Hoffman’s personal experience. There is the potential for the world’s first super gynaecological girl-group here but this slightly muddled show feels unsure of what it wants to be.

Life is No Laughing Matter review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘frank and direct’


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Spirited but muddled three-hander musical on women’s reproductive health