Embittered Swish on formulating a trans dramaturgy


Our experiments with states of in-between-ness are really starting to work. The feedback we had at our showing about our work being an immersive, dream-like space excited us, as well as hearing about those moments where the performance ‘lands’—where it becomes tangible, affecting, confronting, or real. We want to continue working with unstable characters, genders, and sexualities as they occupy the symbolic and physical realms. We’ve begun to embrace a slowness that allows a melting and mixing of images and people and times. We find ourselves moving towards and through Divine; the trans feminine character, the catalyst.
Our residency with Performance Space provided us with an intensive way of working through an incipient model of trans dramaturgy, something that’s coming into being through our collaboration. Mick is a director and performance maker, Kai is a trained actor and performance maker, and Cinnamon is a poet, writer and performer. Trans dramaturgy is the form and the content for what emerges in the trans-generic space between us.
It’s important for us to recognise as well that trans dramaturgy is not new. States of in-between-ness are not new in art or in life. Dramaturgical practices of manipulating the audience gaze, re-framing bodies, queering sex acts, collective creative processes, and the like, are not new. Language may shift over time, and the strict formulations of identity and community may exist in a state of flux, but it is a shifting, a fluctuation, that is paradoxically consistent in late capitalism. The raw materials we’re working with—our bodies—are essentially recycled. Our work is not a challenge to the apparent rigidity of corporeal and dramatic forms, because that rigidity simply doesn’t exist anymore.
We are nothing new, though the iteration we stand in is a technically new moment in time. The book we use, Jean Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers (1943) is testament to this—we’re reading it trans-historically, trans-generically, trans-substantially. The closeness of that reading is an indication of how much, in change, things remain the same. The primary dramas of Genet’s work are eerily familiar: the uncomfortable overlapping of anatomies, identities and behaviours as they play out in dynamics of desire; the stunning ability of the state to give life, contain it, regulate it and destroy it; illness and ageing queer; the discovery of bodies within bodies; the fear of falling in your sleep; the moral pull of acts of crime; the brutality of fame and of survival in oppression; the wish for and deep-seated fear of real status and glamour; the impossibility and strange inevitability of real love and friendship; violence; penetration; racism; sainthood; visibility; “freedom”. Our trans dramaturgy puts an ear to these themes as if to a ringing we’re only aware of when it’s deathly quiet, absolute night.

Embittered Swish is Mick Roe, Kai Bradley and Cinnamon Templeton.