Cross-Stitching

After a successful run at the National Student Drama Festival 2008 and working in conjunction with the Donmar Warehouse, Nottingham New Theatre present a new play by Anthony Lau that bravely attempts to tackle the topics of love and gender reassignment. Unfortunately, this eloquent script gets tangled in its own ambition and the play seems precociously blunt without really justifying itself.

Richard has dated women before and doesn’t think he’s gay, but finds himself “quite fancying” Thomas. They won’t say they’re in love, but blatantly they are. However, Richard has a problem with their relationship: “it’s not the being gay or shagging a bloke, it’s the attention.” He wants to hold hands in the street and kiss Thomas on a dance floor without turning heads. If he became a woman, Richard thinks, he and Thomas could have all that.

Lau’s script is beautifully written but doesn’t acknowledge the numerous issues this unlikely scenario raises. Richard and Thomas are joined by Gail, Richard’s feminine alter ego. They say they have been together forever, and we are, presumably, supposed to divine from this that Richard has always kind of wanted a sex change and Thomas is simply the catalyst. But the rest of the dialogue revolves around “doing it” for love and pays little attention to the topic of gender rather than sexuality.

While the company must be given credit for tackling an important and little-discussed issue, its treatment of gender dysphoria is disappointingly inadequate. The play shows little evidence of either research or thought into real people’s experiences of gender reassignment and one wonders whether the plot was happened upon only as a way to smugly shock.

In the end, ‘Cross Stitching’ is much more about two people attempting to sort out their feelings for one another than an individual’s struggle with gender identity. See this for the questions it raises about relationships in general (“How much would you change for love?”), but not for its queer potential.

Reviews by Natasha Long

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The Blurb

26 and on the cusp of a gender crisis, Richard has to reconsider his sexuality in the face of social pressure and love for Thomas. His testosterone drops and, all of a sudden, his femininity rears her ugly head. www.newtheatre.org.uk

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