Does our personality shape how we look, or does how we look shape our personality? That’s the question that Kit Redstone asks in the UK’s Rhum and Clay Theatre’s show, Testosterone, presented in Vancouver by The Cultch. Inspired by Redstone’s own experiences from transitioning to male in his early 30’s, Testosterone in an insightful look into adjusting to post-operation life and addressing pre-conceived assumptions about gender behaviour.
The show’s concept involves Redstone walking into a men’s locker room after transitioning, and finding himself having to participate in this testosterone-charged environment for the first time. The experience conjures flashbacks to different phases of Redstone’s life, including the fateful day he officially transitioned – which, as explained in the show, was rather unceremonious.
There are three other actors onstage, and they each help paint Redstone’s carousel of memories, as well as his personalized observations about society’s notions towards manhood and gender norms. Told through clever physical comedy, including some entertaining musical numbers, the four cast members – Redstone, along with the show’s co-creator/director Julian Spooner, movement director Matthew Wells, and actor William Donaldson, do an excellent job shifting between characters and situations.
At one point, Donaldson even transforms into drag right before our eyes and goes on to perform some fantastic musical numbers, accompanied by great dance moves from the cast. Donaldson also does a fine job of portraying a couple of female characters later on in the show, including Redstone’s mom.
Among his many roles, Spooner is especially memorable in the show’s version of Marlon Brando, who offers an interesting outlook on society’s perception of masculinity. He is also quite compelling as Redstone’s stepfather, offering a multi-layered portrayal in a scene that explores the reality of being a father, leading a family, and living up to societal expectations.
Wells is particularly enjoyable to watch as the doctor who officially turns Redstone into a male, while having other things on his mind – particularly, what he wants for lunch. And as the central storyteller of the show, Redstone’s performance is touching and beautiful. He makes eye contact with audience members, and tells his story with great honesty.
The format of this show does make it a little difficult to follow, as the plot jumps from the locker room to flashbacks, and then back to the locker room, etc. Sometimes, instead of flashbacks, we see side note commentary from different characters. Therefore, the show isn’t a clean, easy viewing experience. But I imagine any audience member will understand and offer their patience, as the intention of this show is sincere, and the questions it raises are valid and intriguing.
I applaud Redstone and his creative team for sharing this clever show with audiences world-wide. Testosterone explores gender expectations with a genuine and inquisitive lens, while remaining sensitive at the same time.
Rhum and Clay Theatre and Kit Redstone’s production of Testosterone, presented in Vancouver by The Cultch, plays at the York Theatre until October 13. Visit The Cultch’s website for more information.