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Review by Allison Birt
It’s 2017! A phrase you hear more and more because sometimes it feels as though our society is moving too fast for everyone to keep up. When Kate O’Donnel transitioned in 2003, she felt like she was transitioning in 1930, with the lack of awareness surrounding what it meant to be a transgender woman. With no rule book to follow, she did what anyone would do: write her own. The performance followed Kate’s journey from where she began to where she is now: standing on a stage dressed in feathers and talking about vaginas.
Walking into the theatre, you were immediately transported into the 1930s with jazz music playing through what sounded like a crackly record player. The set was simple, some plain black boards arranged either side of the middle of the stage and a projector which hung from the back of the stage. The set didn’t need to be elaborate because all eyes and ears were intently focused on Kate throughout the entire performance. When Kate stepped out in a 1930s style suit, similar to Fred Astaire’s style, the audience was immediately entranced. The show began with a song about Kate’s realisation that she was trans. It was a jazzy opener and set the tone beautifully for the rest of the piece.
The use of song and dance to illustrate Kate’s journey was uniquely fascinating; one of my favourite moments in the show was when a voice from offstage was reading a Doctor’s report from Kate’s first appointment with a psychiatrist over old style dance music. Kate stood centre stage and danced to the rhythm of comments such as ‘stable and good humoured.’ The juxtaposition of the voice with the music and her dancing was hilarious to watch.
Audience interaction played a large part in the show; Kate bantered with the audience the whole way through. A standout moment of audience interaction was during Kate’s ‘Transgina Monologue’ where Kate answered some seemingly ridiculous questions about post-op horse riding and aerobics read out by a member of the audience. During this section Kate was naked behind a black board, with two flaps cut out. One that showed her head and the other was a flap framed by a proscenium arch and red curtains that showed her vagina. This was very funny to watch, as at a previous point in the show, Kate had discussed the fascination people have with her ‘bits’ and the constant questioning she receives around her mysterious ‘transgina’.
This one-woman comedy show didn’t just have the audience in stitches, rather, the audience left with a greater understanding of the challenging and unique journey that every trans person goes through and the underlying prejudice that is clearly still a problem in today’s society. This show is extremely important because it amplifies trans voices on a wider platform. If you like sequins, social justice and seriously funny stories make sure to book a ticket and go see ‘Kate O’Donnel: You’ve Changed’ on its UK tour.
Image by Lee Baxter