STAGE REVIEW: Kate O’Donnell – You’ve Changed @ Northern Stage, Newcastle (31.10.17) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Lee Baxter

Kate O’Donnell transitioned 14 years ago when she was 38 years old. Back then, a Kit Kat cost 36p and these things just weren’t talked about; the vocabulary had not been invented for such a conversation. It’s a different world now and in the last three years, trans referrals for young people have increased threefold. Much has changed in the last 14 years. Kate has certainly changed. Society has changed. But has it changed enough?

Kate O’Donnell is a born performer. Embracing the charm and the style of the 1930s, she loves to sing and dance. She has a story to communicate – her own story – using music and movement, images and documents from her own existence as her silent partner slowly removes her clothing, one item at a time, to represent and to reveal. This great revelation reflected in moving mirrors that shines a light on the ins and outs, and the ups and downs of transitioning.

There’s a gentle coaxing to this performance: to catch up and catch on. Kate thrives on audience engagement, softly prompting the audience to imagine and to estimate. She’s not out to shock or to shame: with a light sense of humour, she simply strives to show it how it is, how it was that day that she visited that doctor’s office for the first day in a wig and a dress…

“What do I know, standing here in a wig and a dress?”

The transgina dialogue is genius: who will forget that surreal, vulnerable, funny conversation or any of the accurate, essential information that it conveyed? And that’s exactly the point: we should not forget. Society is transitioning, but this is not the destination. In no way have we arrived. It’s time to reframe the transgender narrative, to transform it from the ‘in thing’, into something altogether more respectful and kind, less intrusive and insensitive.

Kate and so many others like her have been through so much to get to where she is today. All she asks is for us to meet her halfway (as if smiling and remembering her name could ever come close to meeting halfway).

We’ve worked too hard for this not to have a happy ending.”

Regrettably, those who needed to be there were not present. That’s the sadness behind such a show. Keep creatively exploring, Trans Creative: such a heart-warming, entertaining exploration of such a deeply personal issue deserves to be seen and needs to be heard.

Kate O’Donnell’s You’ve Changed is at Northern Stage, Newcastle until Wednesday 1st November.

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