This week sees the launch of our Youth Review – the opportunity for young people to engage with both mainstream and youth arts through our site (details of how to get involved below.). To mark the launch, I popped in to a Group 64 rehearsal of ‘Pronoun’, which they are performing at the end of the week. The group of actors, all aged 16-17 have been working on the show, which follows the story of a transgender character, for a couple of months now. They were incredibly generous and open with their discussion on both the topic and their own experiences of sexuality. I could have listened to this group talk for a long time, their enthusiasm and excitement was infectious, but alas we had ten minutes to cover everything. Here are key points from the discussion held with Calum, Claire, Harri, Isabel, Katie, Kit, Maya and Ted – NB: a ‘-‘ marks a change of speaker in the conversation.
- How have you found working on the show?
Stressful. [Everyone laughs]. The topic it deals with is an important topic and eye opening in a sense. It’s not something I’d thought much about before we started working on it. – It’s tricky, because of course people have had a range of different experiences and we wanted to be careful giving only one viewpoint. The way the play is written is from quite a… ‘theatre studies’ perspective, I think it would have been different if we’d have devised it as a group. – The thing about Pronoun is that it’s different to a lot of other stuff out there, 90% of trans stories are told as being very tragic – I loved seeing myself represented in a comedy! – Yeah, and it’s funnier if your trans. – It IS funnier if you’re trans. – I think it’s funny if you’re a teenager in general, it’s captured that ‘sarcasticness’ they have.
- How did you approach the subject matter and create a safe space for you to work in?
We talked a lot about the subject matter. – Yes and shared articles we’d read, what we knew. We talked about those a lot too. – We even considered not using the script and devising around the idea. – Yes, but we had no time. – We talked a lot about the script, we have mixed feelings around the teenage language. It’s an American playwright writing British teenagers – it sometimes doesn’t sound quite right and feels a bit hard to believe. – Yes, but I also feel it’s an accessible representation, and not elitist, and it opens up discussion. – I told a friend about being in a play with a trans teenager, and their response was ‘Ooooh depressing,’ but it isn’t, it’s a bit of everything. – Yes, it’s not black and white. Dean (the main character) is in control a lot of the time. It’s not all depressing. – I suppose we always tried to discuss things openly. –And it sometimes gets heated. – [Everyone laughs] We do sometimes all end up shouting over each other. – Yes. There’s a scene at the start where you see him binding himself. I really didn’t want us to show him doing it with bandages because of the dangers of that, it may give off the wrong message. I’d rather have shown a corset – many people aren’t aware of the dangers.
- Do you think theatre has the potential to alter perceptions and being to address issues such as transphobia and homophobia? And how?
I think theatre is one of the most important ways to look at issues. It’s one of the most relatable forms of media, and through the characters it can be a powerful way to help audiences understand emotions. – It’s also an important tool for actors, through studying the play and through our research and discussions we’ve come out much more knowing and less ignorant. – Yeah, theatre’s a really good way to tackle issues. Unlike TV or film which is in the hands of one director, one writer, one producer and so on; it’s the medium of the people. And anyone can put it on, anyone can show these plays. – Yeah, Pronoun is especially good for trans people who are hugely underrepresented, my friends normally don’t bother to come and see things when I say I’m in a play, but this time I said I’m in a play about trans people, and they’re all coming, because they want to see themselves represented on stage.
A huge Thank you to the young company at Group 64 for this interview. We are currently recruiting young writers for the Youth Review Project (both LGBTQI Youth and Straight Allies!) . It’ll be a minimum of 2 blog / articles / interviews across six months, with mentoring via email. Parental consent will be required. Please register your interest in the comment section, or via a message through our Facebook page or tweet us: @lgbtqarts.
Finally, if you’d like to catch the show ‘Pronoun’ then it’s on at Putney Arts Theatre this weekend:
Pronoun is a national Theatre Connections Play from 2014, which tells the story of Dean, a young transgender male as he and those around him struggle to cope in a time of transition. A challenging and heart-warming play, a must see for all young people and their parents.
Group 64’s Young Company will be performing this on Friday 30th at 7:45pm and Saturday 31st January at 3pm.
Recommended for 13+
Photo by Leon Puplett