About the event
Stratford East presents BURN IT DOWN, a series of six newly commissioned script-in-hand performances about urgent political issues. Each piece will be a stand-alone scrutiny, calling out injustice and interrogating the systems that wield power.
[One of these is] I’M TIRED OF WAITING, PASS ME THE DUCT TAPE about two trans girls who are tired of being the ones kept waiting, so decide to take back control. It’s a funny, surprising and theatrical look into doctors, the medical system, and what it takes to medically transition in the UK.
“As a writer it is always so exciting to be given a brief that requires you to move quickly. No time to endlessly plan, we have to move and make it. I love Milli’s work as a director and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we make together.” Travis Alabanza
Written by Travis Alabanza (Burgerz/Overflow)
Directed by Milli BhatiaFrom the blurb
Sophie Melville is like a proper actress and everything, having done Shakespeare. She was recently in the tabloids regarding her relationship with the actress from The Crown, Erin Doherty.
Alexis Meshida is a mixed race man who identifies as trans. He works as a model and has posted a video on YouTube advising men to put their oestrogen pills under their tongues to increase their effect – see here. Though it seems more likely this would decrease effectiveness, so isn’t necessarily dangerous advice, but who knows? He doesn’t, clearly.
Ebun Sodipo is a black man who identifies as trans and as a performance artist and has an appropriately ethereal approach to life.
Ebun Sodipo makes work for those who will come after: the black trans people of the future. Her interdisciplinary practice narrates her construction of a black trans-feminine self after slavery and colonialism. Through a process of fragmentation, collage, and fabulation, she devises softer, other-wise ways of imagining and speaking about the body, desire, archives, and the past.From Sodipo’s website
So we have one professional actor and two who aren’t. I’m Tired of Waiting is a reference to the NHS waiting list for treatment for gender dysphoria and Pass me the Duct Tape to tucking (or binding for the young women in the audience, and believe me there were plenty). I guess this must be Travis’s current work in progress. Predicted crapometer rating 11/10. And thus it came to pass.
Travis Alabanza, the playwright, for those of you who don’t know, rose to fame when he was once hit by a chicken burger on Westminster Bridge. Though it left a trail of mayonnaise in its wake, it got him a TED talk and the world has been evolving ever since.
2 trans gworls tork
It began with Kerry (played by Sodipo) and Chloe (Meshida) staring down the audience for an uncomfortable couple of minutes. Why are these actors staring at us? Are they expecting us to do something?
Okay, that’s my version. But as we know in the krazee alphabet rainbow world, people do actually find these things funny. But it also helps when the writer and his friends go squee.
Chloe definitely had the sassy voice and character that Travis contrives for himself, with Kerry a slightly beta version.
‘I can’t stand waiting. Fuck waiting,’ they preened.
I mean, is there anyone who enjoys waiting? What do they mean? I genuinely don’t understand. (Okay, I do understand, but you know what I mean.)
They run through dialogue that Travis believes is funny. Your one night stand texts you they have the clap and while waiting for your rapid test result you go order a Frappuccino but they’ve run out of chocolate. (Mind you I’m laughing as I’m typing this, so perhaps it is funny.)
What else do they wait for?
A level results – makes it relevant for da kids.
The lowdown on a right angle cock – eh?
For your period to stop – Pause for what would be deemed ‘transphobic’ laughter in any other setting.
Also lots of prosaic things, like waiting for the bus, or the shops to open, or Davina McCall announcing who has been evicted from the Big Brother House.
I’ve got one to add to the list:
For a fucking play to end.
A Karen enters stage left
Okay, they don’t call her a Karen but they might as well. It would be more honest. She’s gagged and tied to a desk chair, so is able to roll herself onto the stage between the two. She remonstrates ‘aarrgghh, arrrgghh’. She is the doctor and quite literally the baddie.
Kerry suggests that they might take the gag off in case the Karen needs something, to which Chloe laughs callously and somehow works in a reference to double penetration and Mary and Joseph. (Travis studied theology at Uni so he was presumably pious at some point – I wonder what happened?)
So our Karen is desperate for some water, but she’s been all trussed up, which is weally funny innit? So Chloe stands over her and splatters water over her face, taunting the thirsty Karen.
‘I NEED FLUIDS!‘ screams our Karen, with perhaps the most inappropriate double entendre I have ever heard.
Anyway Karen has dared to say something and both Kerry and Chloe wonder why she would dare to say anything when she’s all tied up and in their control. Perhaps she’s a bit bonkers?
‘So do you need something? Chloe finally teases.
‘WHAT DO YOU FUCKING WANT?’ the Karen screams, terrified. And then breathes heavily, emotionally, crying. Just so hilarious Travis, bravo.
‘Watch your language,’ Chloe chides.
‘It’s very undoctorlike achoolee,’ scolds Kerry.
They then both bitch about the Karen like she isn’t there. She’s never had to suffer. She’s only been tied up to a chair for two hours. She’s never had to wait for nothing. She probably speedy boards when she flies and fast tracks her Hermes orders. She probably has a bit of liposuction and pretends it was the gym what done it. And, her mum probably bought her nice blankets and kept her warm as a baby.
Talk about scraping the barrel.
And what is all this hatred for middle class people? They must really really hate themselves. I mean, as if we are meant to believe Travis has never speedy boarded.
You know everything about us
Onto the next gripe. It’s not fair that doctors know lots of stuff about us, but we don’t know anything about them! It’s so unfair!
‘When did you know you were a woman?’ demands Chloe of the Karen.
‘I’ve always known,’ says the silly little Karen.
But she can’t! Because she’s a silly little Karen.
‘Without proof we can’t begin the process of starting the process,’ Chloe mocks.
Karen begins to try to reason with them. She is trying to help them. She isn’t the enemy. She is on their side. We learn that she is a GP dealing with a multitude of medical problems, like anal fissures (though surely, other than referring onto a proctologist, what would a GP have to do with this?). Not only that she has other patients who are waiting, and kids at home-
Chloe interrupts her.
‘I’m not a bigot,’ pleads the Karen.
Then do something about it, Chloe spits out, rather than allowing your hands to be covered in shit.
Then Kerry talks flatly about Luna. Luna is a flat character, drawn in flat prose, who killed herself because – you’ve guessed it – she’d been waiting on the waiting list for too long. The Karen offers sympathy but its roundly rejected with a ‘fuck this, that bitch don’t even remember Luna.’
More from the Stalinist Playbook
Chloe accuses the Karen of othering trans people. Of treating them like little rats in a cage. The Karen’s the one with all the power; power which she is withholding. Look at what you forced us to do? the gworls imply.
But also: You’re so false and stupid putting pronouns in your email signature.
(And this why being an ally is so pointless, take note any sheeples watching.)
Gworls just wanna have fun
As Cyndi Lauper blasted out, more physical tormenting of the Karen was had, her wails heard over the din of the music.
Then the music cut and the Karen tells us that the waiting times to be seen in gender identity clinics has massively increased. She holds up a sign which says ‘I am complicit in medical violence’. It is her job as a GP to knowingly put her patients on a path to a four year wait and that she knows some ‘won’t make it’. It ends with her scream of horror.
Imagine if a gender critical playwright wrote a play in which two gender critical feminists taunted and humiliated a person diagnosed with gender dysphoria just for cheap laughs? Because that is an equivalent scenario. Would there be a single serious person who would think this were an acceptable way to dramatically explore this issue? Moreover no theatre would touch it. Or imagine if this play had been performed, not by two men with long hair and nail varnish, but two blokes just dressed in jeans and T-shirts with beards called John and Dave, would the audience have laughed about a woman being tied up and abused then? Or would it have been funny if the scenario were two cancer patients seeking GP funding for a new chemo treatment? Somehow I don’t think those things would have been platformed, or if so, I doubt the audience would have glibly rubbed along with it.
As for the suggestion that GPs are complicit in ‘medical violence’ for being responsible for making the first referral to a Gender Identity Clinic, well it’s lunatic. I suppose the metaphor is supposed to be that we are all to blame. Travis is fundamentally illiterate on the issues and he would do well to read up on some of the side effects of cross sex hormones, that I suspect he has never taken. Both he and Stratford East appear to be unaware that the actual urgent political issue is that Sajid Javid had recently launched a review into how Gender Identity Clinics manage child patients.
It shows how embedded this ideology is into culture that a crowd of ordinary Londoners clapped like seals. It made me think of a famous two lines that John Lydon once sang (or sort of shouted):
Stained glass windows keep the cold outside, While the hypocrites hide inside.
As if to prove my point about double standards, the following bedwetting responses were posted. It’s pretty incredible that actual theatre professionals would go public in condemning a negative review on a blog, normally read by literally handfuls of people, in such a spiteful way.
Despite me only posting a screenshot of Bhatia’s tweet and making no direct contact with her, Milli Bhatia has deleted her Twitter account. Particularly interesting was that her tweet, although only liked by relatively few people, were all working in theatre, one even at the Royal Opera House. I may be being too conspiratorial but it smacked of a whatsapp group response.
This luvvie popped up to tell me that I was ‘disgusting, hateful, violent’, but that the play itself, depicting a kidnap, was ‘gorgeous and important’. He deleted before I could get the screenshot.
And then of Travis’s response – ‘I welcome reviews of all kinds’. To be fair, I am a little obsessed with Travis (perhaps even a bit in love?), but it’s a bit rich for him to complain about playground-like insults. That was about 99 percent of the play’s dialogue!
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