Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Told in verse by a man in a halterneck and wearing nail varnish, this story takes the audience from the dusty streets of Calcutta to the seaside sterility of Eastbourne, examining notions of sexuality along the way.
Silas Carson politely greets the audience as they sit down, exchanging genial conversation and swathed in a cloud of pungent incence. Behind him the staging is simple with a somewhat awkward arrangement of saris as a backdrop and a couple of chairs. As he begins his tale the linguistic rhythms become clear – this performance is to be delivered entirely in verse.
The story begins on a family holiday to India where a young Silas stumbles upon the Hijra, a once revered, now reviled group of eunuchs. This sighting has consequences for his life which at the time he couldn’t have imagined. Eunuchs in the Wardrobe is a fascinating story that unfolds to tell the tale of a repressive British boarding school and a young man struggling with his burgeoning bisexuality.
Performed as a one man show Silas plays all the characters, from his disabled uncle to the hijras themselves. Although the character differentiation was clear, the devices used to move between characters at times felt clunky and forced. The narrative was illustated largely through mime and gesture, but the physical performance style occupied an awkward halfway house between naturalism and stylised movement. Carson is a good performer with a lovely voice and stage presence, but it is a shame that more innovative movement techniques weren’t employed.
The verse form, initially quite a novelty, did grate as the show progressed as an hour and ten minutes is quite a long time to listen to the same poetic rhythm. At numerous points it felt as though the nuances of the story were sacrificed in favour of over the top rhymes and exaggerated alliteration. There was such a rich personal tale at the core of show and I felt that the verse prevented me from fully engaging with the material, which felt like a missed opportunity.
However, despite some pitfalls in the execution of this piece, the story that Silas Carson tells is a fascinating exploration of bisexuality and of being a hijra – neither one thing or the other. The narrative carries the show, and for a very interesting portrayal of growing up mixed race and bisexual in middle England, head out to see Eunuchs in My Wardrobe.