Travesti claims to emphasise the absurdity of the difficulties women face by putting their words into the mouths – and bodies – of men. Its fundamental premise is its fundamental flaw: it takes the words out of women’s mouths in the assumption that to do so makes their words more compelling. The system of oppression this play claims to criticise is in a sense reinforced, because men dominate in this criticism of male domination.
Women do live in a world which often puts them in a position that is more vulnerable than men, but this production goes past the acknowledgment of this fact and condenses womanhood down to the clichés it claims to bring into question.
I am not trying to say that the men performing in Travesti are antifeminists, and I am certainly not suggesting that men cannot, or do not have the right to, be a part of the feminist movement. However, this show fails to be feminist in its failure to be intersectional, for it does not even begin to represent the huge diversity of people who self-identify as women. Whilst this production is verbatim and its words are therefore chosen by the women interviewed, it feels poorly researched in terms of the range of voices presented. There are no accounts from women in the LGBT* community (or at least, not any which addressed how being LGBT* affects the experience of being a woman), or from women of colour.
Most topics are approached in a one-sided manner. For example, there is an interesting and insightful account from a woman who suffers prejudice and is presumed to be cold because she is not a sexual person, but the production makes no account for women who enjoy sex, and indeed lacks any developed positive account of female sexuality. Instead, women are repeatedly presented as sexually and emotionally vulnerable. The only things talked about as empowering for women are makeup and heels. Women do live in a world which often puts them in a position that is more vulnerable than men, but this production goes past the acknowledgment of this fact and condenses womanhood down to the clichés it claims to bring into question.
This production is also flawed technically. Blocking is clumsy, and the stage often feels messy and crowded despite its minimalistic set. Much of the close harmony singing (something which also apparently embodies womanhood) is also painfully out of tune. This production makes more effort to create humour out of seeing men in suits acting in a stereotypically effeminate manner than it does to produce a fair representation of women.
I was supposed to leave Travesti being more aware of what it is like to be a woman and of the injustices we face. Instead, I left feeling patronised and voiceless. If you want to hear a woman, let her speak.