What's on this week

What's On (at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival)


What's On (at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival)

First the good news, from a trans perspective: Lighthouse books has organized a month of public author-audience engagements, including talks with UK trans activist Christine Burns (25 August) and Chitra Nagarajan, co-editor of the study She Called Me Woman, of queer and trans women in Nigeria (15 August).

Turning my gaze to theatre and music, however, I couldn't see any transgender productions on this year's programme, but as always, lots of drag. I don't know what this signifies, except that drag, like diamonds and chocolate, are forever.

The Lady Boys of Bangkok are an annual draw at the Edinburgh Festival, of course, going strong for twenty years. I've avoided them these past two years; drag makes me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it's because of how it turns male-to-female transformation into entertainment and a game, with femininity as something over-the-top, bordering on sexualized grotesque. And yes, as a trans woman, where do I stand? What do drag queens make of trans women and vice versa? For cisgender women, there's more self-reassurance in being female, but drag exposes a degree of my own artifice: as pre-op trans, how different do I seem to drag queens, in my own mind, as a bodily entity? When I go to bed at night, even after years of hormones, how different am I, physically, to a drag queen who strips away the make-up and the padding. The sensible reply, I guess, is that it comes down to how I see myself. But I've always been insecure: how genuine am I as a person? How genuine a friend am I to others, or as a professional worker, or as a PhD student? And last but not least, since I came out as trans: how genuinely female? Drag brings to the surface these kinds of insecurities, and I'm not yet at the stage where I can laugh along to the sexualized grotesquery, the artifice and liminality, safely at a distance, while the foundations of my fem identity get laughed at. Those foundations, perhaps I'm still laying down, consolidating, and interpreting as I live it on a daily basis.

Regardless, I might go this time to watch their act, if I can get a ticket (they sell out fast). They're not the only draw. As someone who grew up with the Welsh-language rock music scene, I'm interested in seeing Gruff Rhys: Resist Phony Encores. Gruff Rhys, of the band Super Furry Animals and before that, the purely Welsh-language Ffa Coffi Pawb, is performing and I find him an increasingly magnetic artist, as well as a link to a past in Wales I seldom touch these days.

If this selecting of acts at the Edinburgh Festival is making me introspective, then I can also add how I realize more than ever my aesthetic. I don't care for Jane Austen, or for that matter Mamma Mia! I realize I'm drawn to dystopian, cyberpunk noir, and the dark, sometimes menacing, transcendent music of (serious) prog rock. This year's festival has productions on the 1940s real-life murder of the Black Dahlia, and the evidently Pink Floyd-inspired Cry for the Moon. I'd love to watch both. Returning to my childhood, there's also a theatrical production about The Famous Five which I think would be wonderful to see: I was addicted as a child to the adventure books penned by Enid Blyton, and I'll always have affection for these stories. However, since the Festival is also about closing your eyes and making choices to watch shows you'd never normally consider, the things I've mentioned here are only half the story, and that's the beauty of the Festival, as we break free from our algorithms, falling into rabbit holes we'd never normally consider.
What's On (in Autumn)?
What's On?


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Captcha Image

My Latest Posts

October 05, 2019


October 05, 2019


Joker The trailer did its work, flashing images of anomie and fury perfectly pitched for these unstable times of precarious working conditions, grievance and institutional indifference. For these same reasons, Joker , directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the protagonist, has attracted pre-release criticisms like few other recen...
September 29, 2019

Resisting Whiteness event 2019

Resisting Whiteness one-day event, Edinburgh Returning for the second consecutive year, Resisting Whiteness came yesterday to the Pleasance Theatre in Edinburgh, providing an intense and inspiring series of panels, as well as a wonderful spoken word section, and a final segment based around the documentary short Invisible by internationally-acclaim...
August 21, 2019

Hearty by Emma Frankland

Hearty by Emma Frankland Raw and dripping with punk aesthetic, this one-woman-show's one-woman emerges in ripped tights and a T-shirt that paraphrases loudly the words of anti-trans theorist Germaine Greer: Lop Your Dick Off. My first impression of Emma Frankland is edgily uncertain and in awe, her Lady-Gaga-looks combined with Heath Ledger's mesme...
August 21, 2019

Pronoun, Pass, & Amnesty International

Transgender drama: Pronoun To be clear at the outset, this was the production of a youth theatre group, not a highly resourced team of experienced, professional career actors – although some of the performances left a powerful impression, and the show as a whole achieved some remarkable moments. Pronoun , written by Evan Placey, follows the transit...
August 13, 2019

Transgender Dance: Sound Cistem

Transgender Dance: Sound Cistem It starts with a heartbeat, the dancer-directors Lizzie and Ayden in slow-motion entry, setting the scene of a nightclub featuring two young transgender bodies who are in fact multiple. Sound Cistem is theatrical dance set to a series of pulsing, dance-floor rhythms and the voices of several trans interviewees projec...
August 04, 2019

Drone by Harry Josephine Giles

Drone by Harry Josephine Giles The blurring of human and machine reiterates here in a comedically surreal, startling performance by the performance poet Harry Josephine Giles. Drawing on visual and aural effects, Giles presents the disturbingly evocative middle-class arc of the life of an electronic, military drone. With Giles as both narrator and ...
August 03, 2019

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza Playing currently at the Traverse Theatre is Travis Alabanza's poignant and comic one-person show, a thought-provoking meditation created out of a jarring personal experience. Back in 2016, Alabanza, a non-binary person of colour, was abused in a London street, with a burger thrown at them by a stranger. The show's series...
August 03, 2019

While transphobes get more hateful, I become more freckly

While transphobes got more hateful, I became more freckly Written weeks after the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International There's nothing good to say, even the films I enjoyed watching this past week, Midsommar and Apollo 11 , I've lost the Sunday will to write. Perhaps Brexit Britain will become like the village cult in Midsommar , bu...
June 09, 2019

Dark Phoenix, John Wick 3, Godzilla: my reflections

Three fantasy movies within three days: X Men: Dark Phoenix; John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum; Godzilla: King of the Monsters The Lacanian feminist Kaja Silverman says about cinema, we go because we need the affirmation, to see the things we hope to see and fail to see in the real world. In Lacanian-speak, Silverman says we go because 'the desire ...