Kit Redstone’s show Testosterone is running at the New Diorama Theatre until 3rd Dec. Based loosely on his own experiences of transitioning, and stemming from one particular experience in a male changing room, he has joined forces with Rhum and Clay to create a whacky, fun and important piece of work. I caught up with him in between tech rehearsals last week to find out more about his work.
©Amie Taylor 2016 (@AmieAmieTay)
AT: Tell us a bit about you and your background in theatre:
KR: I started with an English degree, then I went to drama school, after that I was an actor for a couple of years, but I felt an itch to make my own work, so I went to Goldsmiths and did a Masters in performance making, and from there with a fellow student and some other people I formed my own theatre company. We were making stuff that was quite unconventional, and that’s always been my main priority in making work – making it accessible, but also making it challenging and provocative, not necessarily coming to a conclusion.
AT: What was the impetus to make this piece?
KR: The inspiration for me was that I’m a theatre maker, and I’ve been going through this very unique journey over the past two years, and I wanted to know how I could communicate that journey to people who don’t know anything about it. But not just how I can communicate but how I can link us and find the common ground there, how I can say something universal. I think it was a passion for making those stories more readily available. And also to have trans voices where we’re not just talking about how difficult it is to transition, but we’re talking about what it is to perform a gender.
AT: How did you come to collaborate with Rhum and Clay on this piece?
KR: I’d met Rhum and Clay through friends, I’d seen their show and they’d seen my show, I think that’s really important before collaboration happens, because you can explain your work as much as you like, but what it is and what it communicates can only be seen through sharing performances. I spoke to Julian, one of the creative directors, we had a conversation about masculinity, so we said let’s make a show about this merging our two styles. We’ve spent a year workshopping this, and the conversation mostly came from my transition and how relatable that very condensed journey is, and how we could tell that story making it accessible to everyone.
AT: Which brings me on to my next question, because it is a piece that’s part rooted in your own experiences, isn’t it?
KR: Very loosely, yes. It was really important to me to use life stories as a starting point, then take them somewhere that worked dramatically. So I took a moment in changing room where I took the wrong guy’s towel by accident, he asked for it back, and clearly I was incredibly nervous because I didn’t want to take my clothes off in front of him. We took that moment, explored what it means, what it means to men in general and what a loaded environment a male changing room is. Also, specifically my experiences in the difference between using the women’s toilets and women’s changing rooms, and the male ones. From there we sculpted a show that’s not a conventional narrative, it’s open to fantasy a lot, it’s very magical.
AT: How do you feel trans voices are represented at the moment in theatre?
KR: I see a lot of cisgendered people telling trans stories, so that the creativity comes from someone who isn’t trans and the story is the focus, but our lives are not material; a zeitgeist where everybody’s talking about it so you take our stories and make them yours. And I think the language that is being used to tell those stories, it’s important that it comes from the person that has experienced it. I mean, of course people have the license to make theatre about anything they like, but when that dominates and there aren’t any trans voices telling those stories, then it becomes a problem.
AT: Yes, and I don’t know how you feel about this, but something I notice is we see a lot of gay male voices being represented on stage, but then it feels like LB and T are on the sidelines, which means there’s already limited representation. I don’t want people to feel that they are responsible for representing a whole group of people, but I often feel that LBT shows don’t always paint the right picture, or give quite the right message, which I think happens less when those that have experienced it are steering the work.
KR: Yes, and I think lot’s of trans people will see this show and say ‘that’s not my story’, and I can only ever use my own voice. And this show is about someone who’s vulnerable and makes a lot of their own mistakes and those flaws were important for me to show, because I didn’t want it to be a worthy story where the audience are compelled by a social politeness. I play a character who makes mistakes and I think that complexity is important, we need to go beyond the sob story.
AT: Have you got an audience in mind for this work?
KR: Obviously I hope people who can relate to these things come, because I hope it may be empowering to them to hear a trans voice speaking in their own language – in my own language. But I also hope we’ll get an audience that sit outside the LGBT community, so we can open up a wider discourse around these things.
AT: What do you hope people will take away from watching?
KR: I hope that they come away and question their own responsibility in terms of how they perform their gender, and take some responsibility for the behaviours we do unconsciously. And also to prompt people who are cisgendered and who don’t query their gender, or think of it as a performance at all and take it for granted, to question whether that is true or not. So it’s a tall order. [They laugh]
AT: Yes, and I think a piece like this will often set people along a new path of thinking, whether or not it happens instantly or over time as they begin to unpick it.
KR: What I think it’s also important for people to know is that it’s completely mental, it’s so much fun, it’s a really strange show, and I think that’s the thing that I’m happiest about is that it has all the quirks of my company, and their company’s playfulness.
AT: Brilliant, thanks so much for taking time to speak to LGBTQ Arts today, and best of luck with your run.
KR: Thank you.
You can see Testosterone now at the New Diorama until 3rd Dec 2016. Book now.