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Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Why is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt

Claire Dowie

Genre: Solo Show

Venue: Hill Street Theatre,


Low Down

Claire Dowie takes us through childhood and adulthood with the type of confessional that has authenticity sparkling throughout and a narrative that consistently challenges us. We hear of being a tom boy, having to conform to get a job, finding a job that need no conformity before discovering a fella and finding a flaw.


Claire appears onstage in school uniform. Onstage is a school desk – the wooden type with the seat attached to the desk that still has an ink well in. It hides some of the clothes and props whilst Dowie undresses, dresses and tells tales. None of them seem tall though they have a flourish that keeps the entire audience in the palm of Claire’s ambiguously unrepentant hand.

This is an authentic piece of theatre that is just worthy of seeing because you believe. As someone who is involved in LGBT issues at work I wanted to see this because I knew it would not be “worthy”. This was going to be a simple explanation of some of the issues of growing up expecting to conform to being a girl whilst being a boy. None of this made you squirm but all of it made you think.

Dowie is a wonderful story teller. The physicality of the piece also shows us that Dowie is a fantastic little mover. It is very clever how our own prejudices of what to expect from the sexes are used – dare I say abused – by Dowie against us into understating how growing up in a skirt for one of the Fab Four was a trauma. As a piece of educational theatre I would make this compulsory viewing for young people all over the country.

The set was all very basic but effective. The use of the desk was great as it underpinned how most of our prejudices are absorbed in childhood. By the time we become adults we have formed a view and that is not always the right one… Go education…  With the cost of bringing any show to Edinburgh the set will always be one of the first things to be compromised and whilst I would have liked to have seen much more onstage there was nothing missing.

It’s not the most theatrical of pieces and yet Dowie does this extraordinary thing of making us realise we are in a performance. There was a late comer who was engaged in a quick bit of banter but then it was on with the show. It worked so well and I loved how we were being simply told stories that were heartfelt. It transcended believability into conviction.

This is clearly a piece with a message and that message is good – in order to find herself a woman becomes a gay man and it only makes sense because anything else is nonsense. It is also a piece of theatre that asks you to engage your brain, understand the issues surrounding one person who had a tough time but no sympathy is requested. This is a performer who has peace in their core and all they ask is that you recognise this and respect it… then the debate may begin.


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