Edinburgh Fringe 2017
One year after his first injection of testosterone, transman Kit enters the men’s changing room at a gym for the first time. For the other guys this is just a routine moment in an everyday setting, but for Kit it becomes an urgent search to uncover what it means to be a man.
Kit Redstone is a writer and performer and in Testosterone he has joined with Rhum and Clay Theatre Company to tell a very personal story of transition and transformation. In the last two years he has undertaken an uncommon journey and this has given him a privileged insight into how western society’s expectations differ for men and women. As Redstone wryly observes burst into tears in the ladies and you will get at the very least a concerned enquiry for your well-being if not a tissue and offers of sympathy. Sobbing in the gents? You’re on your own mate. In the locker room of a men’s gym it is not surprising that newly transitioned Kit is both anxious and full of wonder as this new world of ritual and body worship is opened up to him, our undercover investigator.
Rhum and Clay’s founders were trained at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, Europe’s leading school of improvisation and technique in movement and in Testosterone Julian Spooner and Matthew Wells bring their considerable physical skills to a host of characters – body obsessed jocks, a swaggering Marlon Brandon, fumbling schoolboys, and gun slingers from the Wild West. The fourth member of the cast, Daniel Jacob, is a majestic diva and singer, equally believable as an Olympian goddess and a shy schoolgirl. The slick choreography and scene changes are complemented by the simple but effective set design of Alberta Jones and the sharp lighting and sound scape of Geoff Hense.
An engaging story could be even more compelling if some of the narration was trimmed. Audiences are quicker to grasp characters’ fears and desires than sometimes writers give them credit for. Here and there were moments that were over-explained, which led to a drop in intensity from time to time.
Education through drama is a valuable genre; we are given the opportunity to learn plenty from this play and reflect on how gendered aspects of society are. However this play is not didactic; this is entertainment which has humour, depth and humanity, earning long and deserved applause from an appreciative audience.