Travesti @ Pleasance Dome

Review by Christine Lawler | 14 Aug 2014

Unbound Productions present Travesti, a powerful and entertaining look at the lives of women through the mouths of men. With the words taken directly from interviews conducted with women, an all male cast perform it in a way that leaves you wondering why we accept social rules and why women live almost under fear of them.

Inventive directing from Rebecca Hill prevents an audience becoming apathetic, with random outbursts of songs – which convey how repellent lyrics can be – and creative use of the full-length standing mirrors that form the set. Lighting is used well to focus attention on what is particularly important in that moment or simply to set the scene.

At first lighthearted the audience can laugh along to some of the more ridiculous aspects of being a woman without it being patronising or insulting. The tone slowly becomes edged with darker truths, which inevitably lead to terrible stories of how women feel and are treated on a daily basis – from body image, the necessity behind make-up to create a mask or cover the hideousness they feel, to being groped in bars and just accepting it because “it is expected” on a night out. The cast do an excellent job of visually creating the horrified thoughts of the audience by a turn of their heads, an understated facial expression, or simply by lack of movement.

The men provide commendably natural performances as they speak conversationally throughout as though they are speaking from their own memories and points of views despite the fact it is a verbatim performance using the exact wording of the women interviewed. There is wonderful humour throughout (especially from Stanley Eldridge), particularly in the occasional dance routines, which are at once playful and yet disturbing in that it is deemed acceptable for women to demean themselves by performing them.

Unbound Productions have created a masterpiece of modern theatre and credit must be given to everyone involved. Travesti challenges stereotypes and raises interesting discussion on society and self-image as well as on how women are still seen as objectifiable and inferior by some.

Travesti, Pleasance Dome, until 25 Aug (not 19 Aug), 2:50p, Various prices