By Kit Redstone and Rhum and Clay
With trans stories moving more and more the mainstream across stage and screen it is great to see an ever-increasing visibility for the full spectrum of the LGBTQ community and this has become the focus of Rhum and Clay’s latest production. Following on from their success of 64 Squares, using chess to explore memory and identity, they now collaborate with trans writer and performer Kit Redstone to continue to explore this universal subject matter once again focusing this time on male identity and the notion of masculinity in the modern world.
Based on autobiographical experiences Kit takes us through a journey through his mind as he recollects his first visit to a male changing room at the age of 33. Devised by the company along with drag queen Vinegar Strokes (AKA Daniel Jacobs) around Kit’s writing, the piece uses movement and music that at times is reminiscent of early DV8 with the playfulness of Forced Entertainment. There are some incredibly striking moments where the company’s composition, Geoff Hense’s lighting and Alberta Jones’ set design all come together in dynamic unison and Vinegar Strokes’ vocal power and presence flits become comic to poignant with masterful ease.
The majority of the piece, running at an hour, is narrated by Kit himself, talking direct to the audience and this is where the piece sometimes struggles. Theatre that relies on a specific person telling a specific story that is auto-biographical often feels like it can only exist with that performer, as we as an audience connect with the truth of the writing, with only few, such as Russell Barr’s Sister’s Such Devoted Sisters or the broadway hit musical Title of Show managing to transcend that restriction. It is hard to tell where Testosterone fits. On one hand it is the honesty of the lead and the reveal of the small hands that he references from the off or the scarring from surgery that work as a constant reminder of the reality of this tale however on the other I don’t feel that Kit ever felt totally relaxed being himself on stage. Portraying oneself is never easy especially for an actor and there is a stilted awkwardness, which often goes against the action on the stage. However this can partly go down to the piece still finding its feet and I have no doubt that with the ongoing development that is planned after this short run at The New Diorama Theatre it will iron out the creases.
There is something very exciting about this piece that mixes powerful writing with beautiful imagery, taking a serious subject matter and presenting it in the playful and imaginative way that we come to expect from Rhum and Clay.
Testosterone is running at The New Diorama Theatre until 3rd Dec 2016. Booking.
©Harry Richards 2016