Representation on stage has its own affirming power. Identifying with characters in a play can be special and it’s sincerely hoped that Nicola and Stacey Victoria Bland’s story of a young transsexual satisfies a target audience. The value of the endeavour isn’t under question, but its execution is regrettably flawed.
Taking the title role, Matt Greenwood gives a credible performance that powers the show. And there’s admirable support from Nicola Bland as best friend Debbie. But the rest of the cast are hampered by clichéd dialogue, especially poor Wendi Peters whose salt-of-the-earth mum character is an embarrassment – she literally has a lap tray of pie and mash at one point. Meanwhile, Fat Pearl, host of the seedy club Vicky ends up living in, makes a very uncomfortable role for Ben Welch. It’s not clear how much exploitation of the vulnerable staff is going on. And what self-respecting drag queen has only one pair of shoes? Nobody is helped by Victoria Gimby’s fussy direction, while the use of the space is poor and there’s far too much running around carrying drinks.
Welch manages to get the crowd going despite his material. But hasn’t an important issue been lost? Drag queens and the trans community are not always happy fellow travellers – it’s puzzling that this isn’t raised. And similar oversights run throughout the play, becoming increasingly frustrating. Maybe it’s because there is so much going on: substance abuse, prostitution, police prejudice and Vicky’s horrific imprisonment. All are rushed through at terrific speed with short scenes and sloshy sentiment thrown in – one character (admirably performed by Stacey Victoria Bland) dies of an overdose with only the most basic back story.
Ironically, all this pushes the story of Vicky’s transition aside, as it does another subplot that really suffers – a burgeoning love story with a punk rocker, played tenderly by Adam Young, that is yearning to be fleshed out. That the events are based on a true story is certainly awful – but bringing them to the stage needs more of an effort. This is a debut piece and, in a rush to bear witness to events, too many sacrifices have been made to characters and even comprehension – it’s difficult to keep track of events as trauma after trauma occurs and the impact of each is unexplored. The aim may be laudable, but the play is not.
Until 9 March 2019
Photo by Fabio Santos