A thoughtful and beautiful look at identity
Clad in tailored 1930s garb, Kate O’Donnell looks every inch the insouciant movie star. Yet her breezy one-liners, delivered with a purr, mask a childhood marred by alcoholism and neglect. In this thought-provoking, tender and witty look at how she transitioned from Drew to Kate and the changes within the trans community over the last 14 years, she is engaging company. She doesn’t suffer fools – or trans-exclusionary radical feminists – gladly, while her dashing butler Sean Murray attends to her every whim, a stoic and deadpan comic foil.
Structured around classic silent movies and through icons like Carmen Miranda and Josephine Baker, the show is divided into chapters representing misconceptions about trans lives. O’Donnell makes a poised storyteller, cheekily interacting with the audience and giving insights into the process of transitioning. The sequence with her ‘talking vagina’, set up like a carnival curio, is an inventive way of introducing a question and answer session about genital surgery, but which also serves as a pointed antidote to the prurient curiosity around gender reassignment.
The final Hollywood dance sequence, gorgeously choreographed by Lea Anderson and emulating Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, becomes a triumphant paean to becoming true to yourself. Glamour has rarely been so oppositional – or so fierce.
Northern Stage at Summerhall, until 26 Aug (not 9,16, 23), 8.30 pm, £12 (£10).