'52 Monologues for Young Transsexuals' Review: ★★★★★

Performance Review

From spoken word, performance art, parody, lip-sync and satire, 52 Monologues is a powerhouse in emotional storytelling.

Luna Jarvis

To truly understand the beautiful expanse and depths of the trans experience, 52 monologues are not enough, nor are all words, and I fear this is a problem I will run into when attempting to pare down this theatrical revelation into a neatly typed review for you all. So, before I make my best attempt, I will unabashedly call you to action; come and experience transcendent theatre and become a trans woman for an hour.

A mixed bag of spoken word, performance art, parody, lip-syncing, and satire 52 Monologues for Young Transsexuals is a powerhouse in emotional storytelling. The duo of Charli Cowgill and Laurie Ward take on a suite of characters, chauvinist cabaret hosts, mid-birth mothers and pop divas in a tornado of emotion. The charismatic duo guide all through the perils of trans womanhood leaving no unacquainted cis person in the dust. With confessional monologues from interviewed trans women constituting some of the eponymous monologues, the piece tackles sex, dating, body image and every other facet of life. The technical aspects are exciting: a fully pink set that becomes thick with fluids and powders spilt through the hour, a TV screen commenting on the narrative, pink mannequins, highchairs, and cups full of spit all adorn the stage in a baffling mix of beauty and disgust. The performance, lighting, costuming and set culminate in a truly consummate experience where a small studio in Pleasance attic is transformed into an immaterial trans dream.

Sitting on a ridge between euphoria and tragedy, singing the celebration of trans women everywhere, confessing the insecurities we all feel, 52 Monologues knows exactly where the limits are and how to push them. When words aren’t enough it switches to primal dance, moans, and chanting, and when that loses its effect, it switches right back, an all-encompassing work that treads the boundaries between art and reality, until you are not sure which is imitating which.

Perhaps if I loved this show less, I could talk about it more, but for now I can just sing the praises of a show that left me crying for an hour afterwards and then smiling for days. It is a transformative experience for trans and cis alike. To so brutally lay bare an experience to its very foundations and build it up gently again through the audience is a true talent, and one that forms a piece of theatre that transcends all others.

52 Monologues for Young Transsexuals is running at Pleasance Courtyard, the Attic, until 28th August. Get your tickets here!


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