2nd Aug 2017 - 27th Aug 2017
Pleasance Two - Pleasance Courtyard
Suitable for ages 14 and above
Performance contains moments of full nudity.
Included in the British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2017 (21 - 26 August)
Thursday 10th August - Relaxed
Thursday 17th August - Relaxed
Friday 25th August - Captioned
Open/closeReviews and Quotations
Kit Redstone on the process of gender transition and putting it on the stage
Q: Acclaimed transgender writer and performer Kit Redstone recalls his experience of transitioning and explores what it means to be a ‘man’ in his new play Testosterone.
A: Testosterone is the first play I have written with which deals with some autobiographical material, and it was important to me from the start of the project that my experiences were only useful in as far as they served the larger themes in the show.
Thinking about gender and the way that we ‘perform’ has always been something that I have noticed and been fascinated by, and the act of transitioning itself created a tangible starting point to explore this interest through drama. Julian Spooner of Rhum And Clay and I had a chat about my initial experiences of being perceived as male in the first few months of my transition and what struck us was how relatable these were to the wider theme of masculinity in general.
Before I transitioned I was very androgynous, and people were generally on the fence about my gender, so interestingly I was never really read as female with any regularity. The shift for me was a strange one. In some ways androgyny can be quite liberating because it allows you to pick and choose, to swing from one gender to another, but after transitioning I lost the ability to fluctuate between the two genders.
I was placed physically and quite firmly in the male world, and this definitely took some time to get used to. I spent a lot of time looking at other men, observing how they behaved around each other. Places like the men’s toilet and changing rooms were challenging because of the vulnerability I felt when I first started using them, and one moment I experienced in a swimming pool changing room is the setting for our show. I started to notice the vulnerability of men as I spent more time in all-male spaces; the pecking orders, the power dynamics, the micro aggressions and the silent rules.
Of course the transgender element of TESTOSTERONE has an educational aspect to it because it is presenting an experience that a lot of audience members may know very little about, but it was important to me to go beyond the trans narrative of victimhood. I wanted to present a character who is deeply flawed, who, like everyone, has ugly thoughts. I wanted a character who the audience initially feel is a reliable narrator, but who begins to crack before their eyes.
While devising the work with Rhum and Clay, and also Daniel Jacobson, it was the commonalities between us as men that drove the piece, rather than the differences between me as a trans man and them as cis-gendered. In the end, the piece reflects on the aspects of masculinity which hold us all accountable: men, women and the vast spectrum in between.
Q: Tell us about TESTOSTERONE...
A: TESTOSTERONE is a show that grew out of a conversation between myself and Julian from Rhum and Clay. We were talking about my transition from female to male and the things I had noticed about masculinity and the social changes I had not necessarily anticipated. We wanted to create a show that focused on the larger issue of masculinity, but through the eyes of a trans male character. The show is a collaboration between myself, Rhum and Clay, and theatrical performer Daniel Jacobson. We focused on a brief incident in a changing room and from that built a kind of anti-narrative around fantasies, stories and perceptions of other men with the changing room and the men in it as an anchor for the piece. In a sense, it is this trans male character’s quest for understanding of both himself and the men around him.
Q: What is your performance background?
A: My background is quite eclectic. I began with an English Literature degree then went on to drama school before working as an actor. I was really keen to make my own work so went to Goldsmiths to do a masters in Performance Making. After this I started working with some fellow students and we formed Vacuum Theatre. We have been making playful and very untraditional theatre work for the past four years.
Q: Questions of gender and masculinity have also been highlighted by trans experiences. Do you see a more general move towards openness in discussing what it means to ‘be a man’?
A: Yes, I think that these discussions are now coming to the mainstream in ways that they never did before. We have a whole new generation who see both gender and sexuality in a much more complex and varied way than even my own generation. In some ways, there are times that I feel old-school in comparison! I am also delighted to see a wider discourse around masculinity as a topic and much less tolerance of toxic masculinity and misogyny. Clearly, we have much further to go, but I do see progress being made and that gives me hope for the future.
Q: There’s also a lot of (much needed) discussion in the queer community at the moment about queer culture and the idea of ‘masc’ and ‘macho’. Do you address this complexity of queer masculine identity in TESTOSTERONE?
A: Yes most definitely – I allow my character (a kind of version of myself) to explore masculinity and in doing so reveal some rather dark toxic facets to my character’s masculinity, like enjoying feelings of power and also in one moment casting judgement on another trans character during a story. It’s been really important for me to present a flawed and fully rounded character who is in as much danger of becoming a ‘bad’ man as my cis counterparts.
Q: What’s your favourite Mariah Carey Song?
A: Is there any debate? Always Be My Baby, of course!