october 2018 | Volume 172
Testosterone is an intelligent, thought-provoking, sometimes moving investigation of what it means to be a man by someone who has only recently become one. Kit Redstone, a delightful British actor with charming presence, tells about his experiences two years after transitioning from female to male: in particular, his first time in a men’s changing room at a gym.
Redstone mostly enjoys being perceived as male. He likes to hear people call him mate, geezer, sir, even dickhead. But he can’t help using a part of his brain that remains female to watch himself go through the world as a man. What does it actually mean to be a man, he wonders, surrounded by three other male actors. Julian Spooner and Matthew Wells play macho guys while William Donaldson cross-dresses on stage, turning himself into an amazon.
Donaldson, an excellent singer, at one point lip-syncs a soprano’s operatic aria, maybe Brunhilde’s from Wagner’s Ring Cycle. (I don’t know opera – I’m guessing here.) Then he sings, “Androgyny is totality,” and Redstone asks, “Are you trying to tell me I should be holding onto the woman inside me rather than throwing it away?”
Illustrated by choreographed musical routines involving all four actors, Redstone explores what man-to-man intimacy looks and feels like, in what circumstances men (as opposed to women) are allowed to cry, and in the play’s key scene, how masculine privilege and power are inbred from birth.
That’s the changing room scene, where Redstone has put a towel around his waist to avoid showing his nakedness while changing his shorts. It turns out to belong to one of the other guys (Spooner), who wants it back. But Redstone can’t bring himself to drop the towel and reveal his surgically altered private parts. So, in a musical number, Spooner enacts classic male rage with all the confidence and authority that Redstone understands he will never have. It’s a terrifying and illuminating scene à la Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate.
A subsequent scene, where Redstone tries for the first time to pick up a woman at a club and realizes again that he lacks the right stuff, necessarily feels a little anticlimactic.
The musical numbers are amusing and exemplary but director Julian Spooner lets them all go on too long. Thirty seconds or so of each would be sufficient to make the point. At only 65 minutes, Testosterone doesn’t need musical padding. What it could use, ideally, are more of the intelligent, provocative questions Kit Redstone quietly asks about the new male body and identity that he has yet to entirely own.
get in touch with vancouverplays:
Vancouver's arts and culture website providing theatre news, previews and reviews