Kate O’Donnell: You’ve Changed
Northern Stage at Summerhall
Trans Creative and Contact
5-26 August (8:30pm)
‘Why pass when you can excel?’
You’ve Changed is a solo show from Kate O’Donnell, chronicling her experience of transitioning biological gender, and her experience of the world as a transgender woman. The performance uses music and styling from the 1930’s, as she remarks she may as well have been transitioning then for the amount people knew or understood when she transitioned in 2003. From the start, O’Donnell feels like a safe pair of hands as she skilfully sings dances and acts her way through this personal story with warmth wit and wisdom. The costume is a glorious nod to the era.
Decent roles for women, whether on stage or on screen, are pretty limited – roles for transgender women? Forget it, unless you fancy playing a sex worker or a murder victim. Trans Creative, with O’Donnell at the helm, is leading the way for positive depictions of transgender people, increasing visibility, creating a safe space, educating and making better cisgendered allies. It’s a cracking cause, but that alone isn’t the reason for a positive review.
O’Donnell is captivatingly honest in her storytelling. She talks about her childhood, being a fad, how admin-heavy transitioning is and shares her own handwritten guide to retro transitioning. It’s so hard to talk about female anatomy without it becoming sexualised, but O’Donnell navigates just that in a conversation with her own vagina, which was so cleverly staged and very funny. Some of her most comic moments pack the biggest punch, bringing expectations and preconceptions of trans women, and in fact all women, into sharp relief. In response to the offer of elocution lessons to sound like a woman she asks, ‘which woman? Ann who pushes the trolley on the Trans Pennine Express? Joanna Lumley?’
This need for societal change runs throughout the performance with repeated invitations to self-reflect, sometimes literally; the stage is made up of three mirrored panels, which are turned during the finale on the smiling faces of the audience. All the while she dances a beautifully choreographed routine with her very own Fred Astaire (Sean Murray). She’s changed – now it’s time the rest of society caught up.
The take away advice: ‘Learn my name, call me a she, and don’t be a dickhead.’
You’ve Changed is at Northern Stage at Summerhall until 26th August (8:30pm). More details and tickets available here.