Taking verbatim theatre into a new realm, 52 Monologues for Young Transsexuals is interested in how real life becomes performance and vice versa. Laurie Ward and Charli Cowgill have produced a dynamic spectacle that goes beyond their personal experiences of transition, using extracts from interviews which become 'monologues' to guide and represent young trans women.
Taking verbatim theatre into a new realm
Rather than playing the interviewees as individual characters, as in traditional verbatim, the interviewees speak through Laurie and Charli, creating a complex web of voices. This blurring of self and interviewee reveals the limitations of labels and language itself. Going beyond the verbal, Nothing More To Say Theatre represents trans experience as a visceral atmosphere which supersedes the individual, resisting any archetypal representation. As the play tells us, ‘trans-ness’ itself is about movement, and this dynamism is reflected in the performers’ synchronous bodies, which relish the opportunity to occupy the whole stage and take up space.
Being asked to spit in a cup as you wait in line foreshadows this show’s trans-gressive comedy. Some of the darkest moments, in fact, are cushioned by laughter that puts the audience on edge, directly confronting the prejudices beneath our interpretation.
Both performers manage to flip from playing tender confessions to brutal sexual partners, revealing some of the most intimate details of transition. It was particularly impressive to see men in the audience being asked questions they couldn’t answer and observing the audience’s changing faces throughout the show, from amusement to shock, and perhaps even shame. Being so close to Laurie and Charli’s stories was a privilege. The sweetness of their very real friendship was the driving force behind the whole production. It was also a joy to experience their lush sonic world, created by designer Talulah Thomas, which shifted from abstract soundscapes to club classics.
Like the sound, the script dextrously shifted from Hildegard von Bingen references to the Barbie movie, pleasing intellectuals and teenage girls alike. The sections where Laurie and Charli were playing out their friendship, which had a vlog-like quality, could have been structured better to produce a more fluid narrative arc throughout the show, but each section effortlessly held the audience’s attention. Watching this show is a very entertaining way to spend an afternoon, but it might also be an invaluable opportunity to educate yourself on what it means to be a trans woman. And if a show can make you feel different about walking down the street, or even about inhabiting your own body, then it’s done a good job.