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Cabaret review Challenging cabaret on gender transition

EVE ENSLER brought us The Vagina Monologues and in You’ve Changed, Kate O’Donnell introduces the Trans-gina monologues, a peepshow for her pubic area.

It sees her answering pre-scripted questions that address areas covered in a post-operative gender reassignment handbook and includes helpful tips such as how long after surgery people should wait before riding a horse.

This peepshow could have been confrontational but this is a production which opts for a gentle and wryly comic approach.

In the process, it seeks to ask whether attitudes towards trans people have changed from O’Donnell transitioned at the age of 38 in 2003. Then, outlooks were still stuck in the 1930s and even her “pagan lesbian cousin” showed little support.

To emphasise the period comparison, this cabaret show is styled on the 1930s, with O’Donnell starting off in a three-piece evening suit, gradually stripping away layers until she’s reborn in an evening dress.

There are musical interludes, with O’Donnell giving jazz hands to a top-10 list of “retro-transitioning tips” and Carmen Miranda-style dance in feather costume.

These work in isolation but there are occasions when they don’t quite flow as a unified piece. A slideshow of photos that map the stages of O’Donnell’s transition feels like the end rather than the midpoint and the continuity is broken during pauses to rearrange the poster boards used as screens.

Such structural flaws could be remedied with a little more editing. But, ultimately, they don’t detract from O’Donnell’s warmth and ability to challenge whether attitudes have really changed or whether trans people “are the new exotic fad.”

Tours until December 1, details:


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