It’s a cult folks!
About the event
Link to the Digital Programme – which goes on forever – here
Transpose: JOY is for the trans kids who are scared to come out because the world is not safe for their tender hearts. For the trans childhood strangled inside of us until we could speak our truths. It is for those men, women and non-binary people who love us loudly without shame and continue to hold us close when things get rough. Transpose: JOY is for those who fuck queerly, from self-loving all the way to the promised land of T4T*. It is also for those who cannot bear to be touched, terrified that soft breath, as light as a feather, will break us.Campbell X, Curator – very much abridged version taken from the digital programme
*T4T means exclusive attraction between trans people – not very inclusive, is it?
This ridiculously portentous short film (trailer above) opened the show. It was a mix of Islamic Koranic singing, Black Lives Matter, the necessary dose of victimisation and finally phoenix rising out of the ashes. Which nicely prepared us for what turned out to be a decidedly religious and po-faced 90 minute performance, despite protestations of form-breaking and counter-culture.
Wade in the Water
Mzz Kimberley sang the African American Underground Railroad song Wade in the Water, but changed the lyrics to include ‘JK Rowling can kiss my arse’ and the plea ‘LGB protect the T!’. Then from the ceiling, a tambourine came down, which Mzz Kimberley had trouble decoupling. So then we had singing, plus a tambourine! People even started clapping.
The trio introduce themselves
Mzz Kimberley was then joined on the stage by his incidental companions, Felix Mufti (a woman in her early 20s) and Ebony Dark Rose, who like Mzz Kim, was much older. Whilst Felix explained the evening would be a ‘journey through gender, ours, yours and those no longer with us’ in a grating Scouse accent. Mzz Kim said we would be ‘celebrating joy and praise euphoria’ and then laughed like a drain.
Each of the performers described what they looked like to the audience, overly-long descriptions which served no purpose, since we could all see them. And pronouns, of course.
As Felix tried to explain to us that the performance was to be ‘relaxed’, Mzz Kim talked over her. We were told by Felix that all normal conventions of theatre had been broken, we could make noise, we could come and go as we please, we could even visit the chill out room if we needed some quiet. Funnily enough the audience just behaved like an audience, stayed in their seats and clapped in the appropriate places.
Felix was here to praise ‘gender euphoria’, the mere mention of which provoked the crowd to whoop with derangement. She lead us into a sort of visualisation, asking us to think of the time we felt like our ‘true authentic self’. Her moments were posting pics on Instagram, always having a bag of Diazepam on her and her little sister seeing her as a big brother.
Lester was doing some technical stuff for the show, but she introduced herself. She described herself as a ‘white, genderqueer trans person, dressed in black’ but with wings on her jacket – metaphorical and literal. I have it on good authority she is in a relationship with a man. She doesn’t appear to have done any degree of transition, proof that anyone can be a queer trans person if they say so.
Hating gender critical people
Mzz Kim told us he’d written a play called ‘How Sweet the Sound’ and then laughed maniacally. He was going to do a piece from the play, in which he plays a Christian woman in conversation with a ‘gender critical person, if I can call them person‘ (actually a monologue, surprise, surprise). Anyone who might be triggered by that, could leave the theatre he advised (but as I said, people remained in their seats the entire time, like you’d expect an audience to).
Felix came onto the stage to deliver props to Mzz Kim, who announced that he was ‘going into character’, followed by a very long silence, a bit like a hokey medium. Then we heard the ‘voice’ of the character, Harmony, which just sounded exactly like Mzz Kim’s. Anyway, Mzz Kim was now Harmony. Harmony told us that she was a drug addict – ‘coke, heroin, no puberty blockers back in my day’. Prostitution was the means for paying for the addiction and she had found the body of her first trans friend ‘on the rail road tracks with her legs cut off’. Harmony warned us about the dangers of the freedom of speech, ‘cos when you don’t use people’s pronouns it’s hurtful. They are loads of pronouns to go around! Why don’t they just pick one for themselves, huh? huh?
Truth was a multiple factor thing, not black and white, yin and yang, right and wrong. ‘You could say it’s not binary,’ Harmony drawled suggestively. Limbal spaces are complicated and difficult. Spaces where things go wrong, but spaces as well for glorious opportunities! Where they can go to the shops without being spat on!
‘I’m asking you, respectfully, to stop what you are doing!’ screeched Harmony angrily, ‘and if that means cancelling your culture, I’m sorry, but I think a culture needs to be cancelled, that feeds fear and hate. Because fear and hate led to the denial of humanity, then that’s when the killing starts.’
I have to say, it wasn’t quite clear what direction the killing was implied but the audience loved the mercifully short performance.
Felix duets with herself
Felix came on stage wearing a dressing gown, mug in hand and played a video of her 18 year old self singing Be My Mistake, voice still high, prior to testosterone. Then on stage Felix harmonised her now deeper voice with the video. It wasn’t terrible.
What was terrible however was a sudden change of video to Felix naked save for a pair of boxer shorts, bopping about on screen, twerking and singing about being on Snapchat, accompanied by her stripping off her dressing gown onstage and doing the same. She rapped. In a Scouse accent. Oh my ears.
Trans bodies on polaroids – a very short film, directed by Tabby Lamb
A female narrated the film directly to her female lover. It seemed both were be going through a cosmetic medical and surgical process to appear masculine. We saw out-of-focus shots of mastectomy scars and other body parts in filmed polaroid photos.
Mzz Kim strangles Strange Fruit
Simply the worst cover of Strange Fruit I have ever heard. Unless you’re Billy Holiday or Nina Simone, simply don’t try it. Even at home. Fucking horrible.
More twerking from Felix
Going from Strange Fruit to twerking and raps about juicy pussies, was not the gear change even this audience could handle. Again Felix was accompanied by a video of herself, this time with two ‘babes’. All three kept looking down the camera lens stricken with pornified half open mouths. Meanwhile Felix was corpsing at her own material about smoking drugs, setting off fire alarms and posting stuff to Only Fans. Oh dear.
Bizarre dance sequence
Ebony Dark Rose gave us a detailed description of the dance that he was going to do. He was dressed up in gold with a centurion head piece and danced with two long canes because he is visually impaired. The music was techno with the repeated line ‘we are the stars’. Standard drag queen fare you’d expect to see in a pub.
Then the three of them did a dance sequence together, again prefaced by a very long description given by Ebony. I think the description was probably as long as the performance. Tedious. Even Mzz Kim said as much.
Felix twerks again
And raps. I think it was about drugs again, but to be honest the Scouse accent doesn’t lend itself well to rap. I know she definitely did a lot of counting, which is reassuring for her mathematic ability. The cops are after her for drug crimes. Or summink. I bet she comes from St Helen’s really.
Ebony Dark Rose came on dressed as a rainbow coloured dildo. The audience, having the collective mental age of just 13, sniggered. He then danced to some Motown number. It was quite fun, but let’s just be honest, this is just pub entertainment. He deserves his petrol money, but normally you wouldn’t expect people to pay to see this. It is only the added political element which allows it.
Ebony was then joined by Mzz Kim and Felix again. Mzz Kim softly sang a preachy sounding song ‘I know where I’ve been’ (apparently from the Broadway version of Hairspray), interspersed with Felix delivering a sermon, stood with an open Bible in her hands, and an outfit sort of resembling a cassock. Felix reminded people to breath (which is so easy to forget, isn’t it?) and think about the breathe.
We teach ourselves love, even if sometimes you may not believe it, but to be queer is to be here. Share a moment, touching skin. With every breath closer till your last one. […]
We sleep in beds that have splintered our hands as we have built them […]
Our breathe made stilted by binders and tape, but when that weight off your chest is gone you can take a deeper breath than you can ever take […]
But we have power over our autonomy […]
We will instead form the strongest connections, ones so pure, hate could never know.Bits of Felix’s sermon
Then Felix quoted from John in the New Testament. I’m no Bible scholar, as you can imagine, but it was so clear the difference in the quality of the prose, I knew immediately she was quoting from the Bible. Highlighted in pink is the bit she read out.
When Felix finished sermonising, Mzz Kim started singing again. Many flat notes and very shouty. And then that was the end. The audience went mad for it though, giving a standing ovation. It was a religious service, rather than a creative performance, attended by many of those in the inner circle.
The Barbican, in their wisdom and commitment to sharing only the highest quality art forms on their platform, have posted a filmed version of the performance, so now you can enjoy quite how bad it is.
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