Tinder dates in Pakistan, Alan Turing and an angry inch: LGBT shows at Ed Fringe
This year, Edinburgh fringe plays host to it’s largest number of LGBT performances in history.
Edinburgh Fringe’s LGBT presence is far more noticeable then it has ever been before – especially with shows focusing on gender and transgender issues.
Trans and genderfluid visibility has been increasing over the last year – Conchita Wurst stealing the Eurovision crown, Caitlyn Jenner becoming one of America’s most high-profile trans celebrities on the cover of Vanity Fair and Laverne Cox being the first person on the cover of Time magazine who is openly transgender.
One of the most talked about shows at the Fringe this year is Trans Scripts – a show by writer Paul Lucas based on interviews with 75 trans people around the world. Starring Calpernia Addams and Rebecca Root – who will feature in Boy Meets Girl – the BBC’s first transgender sitcom, later this year – the play consists of multiple, sometimes clashing narratives which Lucas has discussed.
“It’s particularly important for transgender people, because for a long time, people felt they had to tell the same story.
“Between the 1950s and the 1980, unless you told a very specific story, you would not be diagnosed as gender dysphoric or have access to hormones or surgery or analysis. This is about expanding the narrative, and accommodating as many voices as possible.” He added.
“‘There is no one transgender narrative,” says Lucas. “My characters ideally will stand on stage and argue with one another. One character will state that, unless you have so-called bottom surgery, you are not a woman. Another character will say, ‘What difference does it make what’s going on beneath my skirt?’”
A reporter for ScotsGay wrote: “This really is the best of the fringe in every way, writing, directing, performance and source material and once seen will never be forgotten. It truly aspires to inspire and you will feel a little more educated if nothing else.”
Trans Scripts is not the only show this year with trans themes. As well as straight plays, a revival of cult rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch is taking over Scotland. The story of an “ignored song stylist” from East Berlin has also been storming on Broadway, where Taye Diggs has just taken the lead role.
It’s not just ensemble shows that are stealing the spotlight – Sarah Franken is one of the notable LGBT comedians at Fringe this year that shouldn’t be missed. Along side her there are acts such as Paul Sinha with his show ‘Postcards from the Z List’ and Natasha Noman with her one-woman show ‘Noman’s Land’ talking about her adventures on a lesbian tinder date in Pakistan.
Although stand-up is often considered a ‘lonely’ type of performance, many stand-ups join together creating joint shows, cabaret or even panel shows – like Sex, Hugs and Gender Roles. A “unique stand-up panel show explores relationships with sex, sexuality and culture” – made up of “trivia and hilarious banter with different guest panelists about how comfortable we are with sex, our bodies and intimate moments”.
One of the most critically acclaimed shows that will be at Fringe this year is welsh touring company Scriptography with their show To Kill a Machine – retelling the life of gay codebreaker Alan Turing.
Following the success of The Imitation Game, this production documents Turing – portrayed by Gwydion Rhys – throughout his school days, right up to arrest for gross indecency before his tragic death.
The play has been well embraced by the LGBT community for its portrayal of Turn as a gay man trawling the streets of Manchester for sex whilst still yearning for his lost childhood love.
One review of the show says: “Don’t expect some wishy-washy story of a nice geeky guy who happened to be homosexual.
“This is a hard-hitting look at the nature of humanity when confronted with a person who won’t – or perhaps just can’t – conform.”
Dance performances are more common than people think at Fringe and this year Boys who Like to Play With Dolls is one of the numerous shows exploring the complexity and fluidity of gender.
A show from the Czech Republic, the dancers portray a world in which masculinity and femininity are disconnected with male and female forms.
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By the Bi is another dance show which has received many positive reviews – merging dance, physical theatre and spoken word to take a look at hurtful and often offensive stereotypes of bisexuality.
Other shows include Donald Does Dusty – the Fringe debut of Diane Torr, who began performing as a drag artist in the 1980s. The show focuses on Diane’s late older brother, Donald, who used to impersonate Dusty Springfield whilst he made his sister act as “audience, judge and jury” on the performance.
When asked about the discussion of gender, Diane Torr responded: “It’s an idea that’s always current. Every generation asks those questions when they hit puberty: ‘Who am I?’ ‘How am I?
They continued: “Trans people are at the forefront of the gender debate. They deserve to be included and supported and accepted and acknowledged. I’d like to live in a society which is open to the choices that other people make.”
Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes over the city until the 31st August.