Edinburgh Fringe 2013
"Imagine total gender freedom, where changing sex is as easy as getting dressed. Sons can become daughters, husbands can become wives, and blind dates could be either in a new play from Fat Git Theatre and Joe White. As the boundaries blur, where will curiosity take you? An irreverent, gene-juggling, biopunk vision of a planet and its specie in disarray."
In a near contemporary future humans have developed the ability to change gender simply and at will. The consequences for one family though are far from simple as told in one of the boldest and most emotive scripts staged this Fringe.
We enter to find two guitarists jamming (it’s the earlyish AM and this will not be the first time I wish they could turn the volume down…just a smidgen). Enter a disparate collection of support group attendees, micro-managed by their prissy leader Panda. Only long after the show is over does it dawn on me how neatly and how pacily this device serves to progress the audience into a state of comprehension regarding the tapestry of sci-fi, social and personal narratives which are to come. Many productions attempt to siege and storm the burning issues of the present or recent past. Few feel the need to invent a concern and almost none could have ensured so great a harmony between weird science and family drama.
A young couple meet (awkwardly) on a blind date. In time they are married with a daughter and have savings enough to buy a car. One morning Dad proposes to Mum that perhaps it would be better if daughter was a son. For the price of the car they can have the operation to allow baby to become a ‘New Person’ able to gender shift at will. Mum is horrified even those she/he is herself/himself a ‘New Person’. It is a defining moment in the lives of them and their extended family and over the course of a tightly packed hour we will witness the fallout.
A sombre and sober reflection of transgender issues is enlivened by the hugely creative use of props ranging from the surreal (think Jonathan Meades on form) to the downright silly. Further punctuation is provided by the stylized scene shifts which demonstrate the performers’ practise and polish (think robot dance if the robot was moving props around). The real benefit of the shifts is the way the actors mesmerically use the moment to recapture and focus the audience’s attention. Musical accompaniment by a skillful guitar duo draws out the dialogue, setting a rhythm which infuses the whole show.
A series of moral conundrums are made no less important because they are not real. The baby of the family must live out the decision made by their father which is why he’s going to prissy Panda’s support group. Running alongside the family drama the support group scenes workshop the show’s themes, laying them out neatly and clearly. The success of the device at the start of the play is carried through to the dramatic conclusion of the script.
This is an ideal early afternoon show. Surreal enough to give the gentle visitor a sense of having seen something truly Fringy. Smart enough to frame and fill a complex social commentary. Swarve enough to feature the best prop devices this Fringe without taking it too seriously. Sensitive enough to avoid the bawdy bear traps inherent in the subject whilst allowing a broad range of performers space to show off the talents and assets which make this such a memorable and entertaining show.