52 Monologues For Young Transsexuals

Don’t worry. There are, the promotional materials of 52 Monologues for Young Transsexuals are keen to stress, not actually 52 monologues. Indeed, much of what Laurie Ward and Charli Cowgill perform barely qualifies as a monologue at all – and that’s exactly the joy of it.

The show is part verbatim, part experimental dance, part two-women confessional. They flit through the stories of other trans women, sentences and asides snipped up and patchworked, duologues accompanied by choregraphed lunges and the occasional lip-synch. The swapping gets more elaborate as the show goes on: experiences overlapping, collaged into a greater whole. We get the names of each of these women (including Charli and Laurie themselves) as their words are performed – and then the names disappear, and we are faced with a barrage of external voices. Ranging from cruel to clumsy, they feel like they’re everywhere at once.

The show doesn’t shy from complications, or from difficulty. Tonally it veers from hyper pop-drenched acidic wit to heartbreak, from tenderness to horrifying surrealism. There are moments of real danger amongst the hilarity, and the show is unafraid of making the audience sit in the intense discomfort of the reality of fetishisation and predation. It doesn’t necessarily always entirely mesh, and there are a couple of sequences that edge into slightly too long, but that doesn’t really matter. This is the kind of anarchic, freewheeling work that fringe theatre was made for.

In its final moments, Laurie dwells on the importance of honesty and grief, and navigating the difficulties of exposing herself on-stage whilst still needing to protect and care for herself. This is a work in progress, and perhaps always will be – both an unfolding and retreating of the self, an exercise in grace and friendship. Despite all the laughter, and despite the tears trickling down cheeks, the thing that most stuck with me was the pervasive sense of warmth. Between Laurie and Charli, yes, but also within the audience. Together, we’d created a space where things could be messy, and funny, and strange, and where the words I could really like to be able to have a future resonated in every chest.