Review: 52 Monologues for Young Transsexuals (Pleasance Courtyard)
Verbatim theatre with bold confessions and bodily fluids
Nothing sets the tone like some hot pink tarpaulin taped to the floor. It promises fun and mess, but it is also a little fear-inducing. One cannot help but wonder if the front row really will be a splash zone, not least because audience members are asked to donate a spit sample as they enter the space. 52 Monologues for Young Transsexuals by two-woman theatre company Nothing More to Say is a cabaret created out of verbatim interviews with young trans people on the topics of sex, love, and bodies.
Photo Credit: Ilona Sell
Although this sounds like a broad area for discussion, the interviews reveal just how inseparable they are from each other. The interviewees' testimonies overlap and conflict, and they share their most vulnerable moments and their harshest experiences of love and sex. The trigger warnings for the show are presented on a flashing screen to a techno beat, which like the pink tarpaulin and many other aesthetic details encapsulates the show’s blend of girly boisterousness with darkness and uncertainty.
Laurie Ward and Charli Cowgill have a captivating stage presence, one that fits the space perfectly. They are energetic, engaging, and you trust them entirely with the experiences being shared. This is because, although their stage personas are undeniably fun, they are more than a little scary. They do not shy away from demonstrating their violent themes on stage, which means we see some disturbing stage imagery that is not easy to watch but neither is it superfluous. Audiences are subjected to a sense of dread and discomfort that feels appropriate for the personal and traumatic stories being shared.
This is not to say that the performance is not just about wallowing in trauma – what Nothing More to Say are doing with this performance is opening up about unspoken nuances of being trans today. Audiences who come expecting to hear a simplistic, rainbow-coloured narrative of misery before transitioning and uncomplicated pride after transitioning will leave disappointed. Transition is not presented as a simple journey from A to B. For some, it represents an unresolved sense of self, or a compromise in a world that demands you put a label on your gender identity and expression. And yet there is still joy in it, like finding a sense of comfort in a word like “daughter” even when seeking gender affirmation means getting a bleak insight into the realities of being a woman.
Photo Credit: Ilona Sell
This show is a lot – too much for most. But it has an unbridled, nauseous, brutal honesty that is necessary in the landscape of queer theatre. There needs to be space for uncertainty, hurt, and shame and Nothing More to Say creates that space with 52 Monologues for Young Transsexuals. It is the creation of two fearless performers who present a show that is as messy as the experiences it is sharing. I cannot overemphasise that this show is not made for everyone. At the same time, I cannot overemphasise that everyone it is made for should see it. Four stars.
Whispers from the Crowd: "It was so good I saw it twice! It was even better the second time." "This show makes me wish I could get a court order to make everyone see it."
52 Monologues for Young Transsexuals will play at Pleasance Courtyard until August 28th