The amazing thing about any form of arts festival is the wealth of productions that are put on and I have to say that the Camden Fringe has been truly amazing. Although I have seen only a few shows, everything has been produced superbly and left me with talking points as a minimum or even a complete re-evaluation of my own ideas. This is definitely true of In Tandem Theatre Company’s production of “Most people are Other People” at the Tristan Bates Theatre.
The setting is a dark room. There are five white stools, each with a pair of garish shoes under them at the front and a large blackboard covered in names at the rear. As the show progresses, more names are added to the list by a woman dressed in black who acts as an interrogator to the five people – identified only by their roles, ‘the partner’, ‘the journalist’, ‘the dad’, ‘the peer’ and ‘the plastic surgeon’ – all of whom are involved in some ways with the life and death of Esther. Over the course of the show, the questions become very deep taking each of the protagonists to places they would rather avoid and forcing the audience to consider how they would react in the same situations. In addition to the questions, there are flashbacks to scenes – particularly the reaction of Esther’s parents when she goes missing in Tesco – which go from the original version of the loving father fully accepting that his five year old son is a transgender person to the reality of the dad refusing help to look for Esther due to the embarrassment of having a transgender son. There is also a scene with a journalist – based on a very well-known real case where a transgender teacher was ‘outed’ in a national paper and ended up killing herself – which explores the sensationalistic nature of journalism weighing its priorities against those of the people they report on. There was no ending to the play, nobody accepted their own part in the death of Esther but hopefully each character was more aware of their own prejudices and would be able to face them should they be in similar situations in the future.
Looking at the production, “Most people are Other People” was a really well thought and deeply moving piece of theatre. All of the performers (Eva Clifford, Elizabeth Menabney, Georgina Morton, Helen Watkinson, Mathew Wernham and Benjamin Woodhall) were really great as their respective main and subsidiary characters making it easy to believe in each of the stories around Esther being played out. The continuous adding of names to the back wall was a nice touch really driving home the point that every three days a trans person is murdered – a statistic the world should be ashamed of.
When I read the press release for “Most people are Other People” I wasn’t that enthused about the show. I sort of knew this wasn’t going to be a barrel of laughs, and indeed, despite some very witty one liners, it wasn’t. However, it was a really gripping piece of theatre that really managed to touch me at a level I wasn’t expecting. The transgender community is often treated as the second cousin, twice removed of the LGBT+ family – campaigning group Stonewall only added the ‘T’ to their remit in 2015. “Most people are Other People” really made me look at my own attitude as a cis-male to transgender people and, analyse how I would react in certain situations, not the most comfortable hour of my life if I’m honest. At the most basic level, there can be a struggle in how to speak to a transgender person – something the play covers extremely well by presenting a code for journalists. This intrigued me so much that I did a quick internet search and found a very similar document – http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender – which I think will be really helpful in the future.
“Most people are Other People” is a play that will be uncomfortable viewing for most people, but it is a story that needs to be told and the In Tandem Theatre Company have found a way to raise awareness of the missing ‘T’ with this compelling drama that will provide everyone with food for thought as they wend their way home once more.
Review by Terry Eastham
“We need to talk about why our people are dying…Being transgender isn’t what is killing us. It is the culture we live in.”
In Tandem Theatre company is dedicated to providing a platform for minority voices. Our new show, Most People Are Other People explores the impact that the cisgender community has on the transgender community. Our show blurb is as follows:
Nearly 50% of the trans people have attempted suicide, and every 3 days a trans person is murdered. We ask why. A provocative new play about choice, change, hope and violence. A play that asks us to question our binary notions of gender, that asks us to reflect on what part we may have played in accommodating gender stereotypes, and what we may do to make the world a safe place for trans people to live their lives.
The trans community may be more visible than ever but “cultural presence does not equal cultural power”… We feel this needs to be talked about now in the belief that if prejudice is the disease, awareness must be the cure.
A series of disconnected cis characters are called to account for the roles they may, or may not, have played in Esther’s disappearance.
The show plays from the 25th to the 29th of August at the Tristan Bates Theatre every day at 6pm. If you are available and would like to come and see the show, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will arrange a complimentary ticket for you. The trans community may be more visible than ever but “cultural presence does not equal cultural power”… We feel this needs to be talked about now in the belief that if prejudice is the disease, awareness must be the cure.
Friday 28th August 2015