H to He, a solo show presumably named after Van de Graaf Generator’s third, physics referencing album, is loosely based on Kafka’s tale of transformation, The Metamorphosis. Only, in this case, the protagonist’s journey isn’t from man to hideously oversized bug but rather from woman to man - allowing a serious message on the difficulties faced by transgender individuals to infuse the more comedic script.
The show’s drag cabaret feel - with mimed diva anthems, cheeky audience interaction and dominatrix inspired heels - unfortunately gives it a second rate, back street club in Soho vibe, unsuited to its current housing in the Hill Street Theatre. This contributes to an overall amateur feel to the whole production, although it is not without some redeeming features.
The performance itself could use some variety - almost every line is delivered at a machine gun fire rate, with the same pattern and tone. This not only gave Claire Dowie, the actress, difficulty in delivery and the audience difficulty in following, but it became a little monotonous and denied some of the lines the impact they deserved. In addition, certain costume changes took far too long, leaving the stage empty and Dowie hastily filling time from behind a screen.
Despite these flaws, there were some charming moments in this production: the character’s reflection on the gendering of fruit was an entertaining sideline and the juxtaposed reactions of the fretting friend and nonchalant cleaner was a great dynamic. Moreover, it successfully forced the audience to reflect on the definitions of gender, the differences between them and the sheer confusion faced by those who feel trapped in a body that doesn’t match their identity.
There are the beginnings of a good, thought provoking production here but it could do with some work. A different performance space, some variation in the acting and some polishing to make the costume changes slicker would greatly elevate this piece.