ARTS Testos­terone finds laughs in locker-room mas­culin­ity

Janet Smith

The Georgia Straight - - Arts - By

Four men are dress­ing in a sweaty men’s locker room at the lo­cal gym. For one of them, it’s an in­tense turn­ing point in his life: Kit Red­stone has tran­si­tioned to be­ing male, and af­ter a year of testos­terone in­jec­tions, this is his first foray into the all-dude do­main.

That’s the very real premise of U.K. writer-per­former Red­stone’s rol­lick­ing,

Testos­terone, pop-mu­sic-and-com­edy fu­elled

a play that looks at mas­culin­ity from a unique per­spec­tive.

“Be­fore I tran­si­tioned I was very an­drog­y­nous, so I didn’t re­ally get treated like a woman,” ex­plains Red­stone, the af­fa­ble Rhum and Clay Theatre Com­pany artist who’s bring­ing his Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val Fringe hit to the York Theatre here, speak­ing over the phone from late-night Lon­don. “So for me, tran­si­tion­ing, rather than chang­ing gen­der, felt more like be­com­ing an adult. Hav­ing ex­isted in this Peter Pan an­drog­y­nous world, I was then very firmly po­si­tioned in a man’s world, and be­ing treated like sort of a man’s man, and not re­ally know­ing or un­der­stand­ing that dy­namic.”

For the up­beat Red­stone, hav­ing fun with one of his most ex­cru­ci­at­ing mo­ments came nat­u­rally. “A lot of nar­ra­tives about tran­si­tion fo­cus on pre­tran­si­tion and mak­ing the de­ci­sion to do that. And that in a way bored me: ‘Oh, I’m trans and no one’s ac­cept­ing me; poor me.’ I per­son­ally have no in­ter­est in writ­ing about those as­pects of tran­si­tion,” he says. “When you deal with a sub­ject like be­ing trans­gen­der, peo­ple think it will be very se­ri­ous and a lit­tle bit dry and that the au­di­ence is go­ing to get preached to. I re­ally wanted it to be a show where I could laugh at my­self and the au­di­ence could laugh with me, rather than me telling them how to think.”

It’s not just laugh­ter that Red­stone and his team use to tell the story, based

Luke Forsyth photo.

on a true in­ci­dent that hap­pened when the per­former was 33. Rhum and Clay in­fuses the show with mu­sic, danc­ing, and a gen­er­ous sprin­kling of fan­tasy se­quences—some­times imag­in­ing the other guys in the gym as ev­ery­thing from swag­ger­ing cow­boys to preen­ing mafia bosses. A drag disco diva even bursts into the ac­tion.

“That’s the beauty of the power of art: you can tell a story that peo­ple can re­late to in an ev­ery­day sense, and then you can add magic,” Red­stone says. “The show is mostly about stuff that goes on in my head—so the nat­u­ral­is­tic is about five min­utes of the work. Ev­ery­thing else is mem­ory and fan­tasy.”

Many re­views have praised Red­stone for his bravery and noted how much the au­di­ence gets be­hind him over the

Testos­terone—roar­ing course of their sup­port by the end of his in­creas­ingly tense sit­u­a­tion. But Red­stone doesn’t re­ally see re­veal­ing his in­ner­most fears and his pri­vate jour­ney into man­hood as an act of courage.

“If any­thing it feels al­most like it’s ther­a­peu­tic, be­cause our show is very fun and joy­ous. It has some dark parts, but for the most part it’s a com­edy,” he re­flects, “so that when it gets to the end, when it is more hard-hit­ting and lit­er­ally very ex­pos­ing, I feel like the au­di­ence is my friend at that point.”

His en­try into the male world has got­ten more com­fort­able, too, he says, as he’s ne­go­ti­ated new codes and lan­guages of mas­culin­ity—and found an en­dear­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity there that he never no­ticed be­fore. “Be­fore, I found men very threat­en­ing. When peo­ple don’t know your gen­der, peo­ple can be… Ag­gres­sive to you,” he says. “And sud­denly I just be­came this nor­mal bloke.”

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