Jaden Adams, an Oldham-born former gas engineer now three years into his transition, stops off at the Camden Fringe with his one-man show, Transparency.
Written with input from Mary Cooper and directed by Francesca Murray-Fuentes, this play looks at the experiences of trans men from working class families by focusing on the character of Jack and those around him.
Adams (we share a hometown, so I recognise the attitudes and people he portrays) plays all the characters in this – his parents, a male work colleague, his nan. A costume prop and change of voice and stance is all it needs.
Jack tells us a lot of personal detail about his transition: the self-loathing of his body; the battle with parents who won’t accept (Dad) or grieve (Mum) the loss of their daughter; the uneasy bond with Nan, who shows understanding but still says the wrong thing.
A notable scene is a post-work drinking session with “the lads,” who treat women as objects, a trait Jack, with his lived experience of being a young woman, finds disturbing. Later, he defends a woman being hassled, and they become an item.
There’s a sense of freedom in Transparency, while acknowledging that transition is not easy (or a choice). Humour comes from the unexpected that you may not think about; pathos comes from Mum slowly saying goodbye to her “little girl”.
At fifty minutes, there is a lot to pack in, but props are used well, and the many scene changes are dealt with as quickly as possible. I did wonder whether Mum/Nan could be played by another actor, but then I’d miss Adams’s playing of them – he’s a wonderful performer.
We don’t see enough of Dad beyond one scene where he reacts exactly the way someone from his background would (“she wants to be a bloke!”). Does he change as his son settles into his new identity?
Transparency is a strong piece of theatre that makes you think about social acceptance and self-doubt while remaining light-footed about body dysphoria and surgical interventions.
It should be required viewing for those people who maintain that transition is a phase or aberration.