25 August 2017

Kate O'Donnell - You've Changed (Edinburgh Fringe)

Last month I managed to catch award-winning Kate O'Donnell's show Hayley and Me (at Baltic Live is Curious in July), a whistle-stop tour through the on-screen life on TV's most famous transgender character Hayley Cropper, peppered with stories from Kate's transition which took place in 2013. It was an entertaining mix of comedy and socio-political discussion (with an audience member dressed as Hayley) ending with a burst of song. When I found out that Kate was bringing a new show to Summerhall at the Edinburgh Fringe, I knew I had to go along and find out more about her journey.

The Fabulous Edinburgh Fringe poster
You've Changed goes into more detail about Kate's life, from her difficult childhood (her parents are 'present' throughout the show in their own way), 'interesting' relatives and getting advice from a switchboard back in the day about her sexuality, to an in-depth account of the various stages of transition, including her amusing visits to a pop-tastic psychiatrist who gives her a note to prove to people that she's trans (and sane) and her decision to go abroad to have reassignment surgery.

A top-drawer performance from Kate O'Donnell (photo courtesy of Trans Creative)
The show has a music hall theme and is assisted by a slideshow to for added effect. Kate is dressed to the nines, starting off dapper, very Fred Astaire. Ably assisted by her equally well-dressed side-kick, the elegance of the set works well as a backdrop for the story, and gives us an insight into some of her inspirations and love of performance, her ability to stay classy in the face of extreme challenges.

The show manages to be hilarious, shocking, heartbreaking and eye-opening; you'll be laughing your head off one minute and shocked into stunned silence the next. She elegantly and bravely (sorry Kate, I know you must be sick of the word brave) answers the question that most of us are secretly asking without being crude or too in-your-face, and brings up extremely valid points about gender being in the head (not the genitals) and ponders whether her current popularity is just a fad/a phase ("being trans is hot right now"). By cleverly transforming an understandable rant about the lack of awareness and understanding around trans people into a song, you clearly get the message that rising above is the only way to survive. In the face of turbulent times, Kate reminds us of the only way to get through - face the music and dance (and she dances beautifully).

A Fred and Ginger moment
Kate is the founder of Trans Creative, the first trans-led theatre company in England. Backed by ACE in Manchester, the company will produce work and educational programmes to raise the profile of trans people in the arts, and increase participation in the arts for transgender people.

The show is co-produced by Trans Creative and Contact.

To book tickets for You've Changed at Summerhall (venue 26) on August 26th at 8.30pm click here

Kate is bringing the show to the Northern Stage in Newcastle on Tuesday 31st October (plus post show discussion) or Wednesday 1st November - to book tickets (£10) click here

To follow Kate O'Donnell on Twitter click here

To follow Trans Creative on Twitter click here

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