The room is incredibly tense as the actors position themselves in various intimidating positions for 'Cassandra & The Boy Doll'.
Anger and hate, feelings of control and disgust, with several people visually emotional. While many are already familiar with the storyline, nothing could have predicted how anxious the room felt. Fingers are clutched on the edges of seats.
The walls are lined in photographs, and on each seat is a paper crane. The actors begin to move. Every movement is poised and precise, slashing the air with a knife. Two people – a man and a woman – represent Cassandra, who has to decide whether she’s going to simply say goodbye to her constructed male identity, or violently destroy him.
Classical music plays softly in the background, which would have made a little more impact if played louder: it’s not quite clear what it represented. It felt a little intrusive at times. The T-shape of the small stage is fantastic. In each corner sits a different factory model of a woman, and it looks a little like a runway, and extremely judgemental.
The stage is illuminated by a lamp, which is warm, and expectant. The factory models stand rigidly, flaunting their femininity. Hands cup breasts and stroke hips and the heat rises in the small space. What will happen next is uncertain.
The acting of both the male and female versions of Cassandra feel a little stiff. While the setting allows the audience to feel the meaning of the show, both actors seem a little cardboard cut, the factory models appear to evoke the most emotion.
The Cassandras could be a little more empathetic, however the lighting changes assist with the mood, emphasising the emotion. In fact, the lighting is well done, and felt cleverly planned in such a small space.
The show itself, while very emotional, is also very humorous. Laughter bounds off the walls throughout the show, which is a great tool to slice through intense, emotional scenes, of which there are many. At certain points, tears brim in viewer’s eyes. The most unexpected humour comes though the hilarious rendition of Salt-N-Peppa’s ‘Push It,’ occurring during a particularly important scene where Cassandra’s sexuality is tested. However, the sound should be much louder to make more of an impact, especially in such a small space.
Knuckles whiten as the stage turns into a late-night advertisement, while the boy doll wrestled with his identity. “Are you a straight man looking for cock?” “Now you can have your cock and eat it too!” The audience stiffen in their seats. This part of the show is the most emotional of all, as it deals with the feeling of being ashamed for beings trans.
The stage turns into a boxing ring which feels like the pinnacle of the show. It would have been better if it was constructed as an extension of the confrontational aspects of the advertisements. It appears to be a missed chance for introspection, especially since the entire show is essentially a look into the thoughts of a transgender individual. The lights dim and the audience is silent, as Cassandra attempts to be a man for a woman, battling her identity. What happens next is a powerful moment, and it feels like all the noise outside the little room seems to stop.
While the audience feels sad for Cassandra, the tone turns hopeful, with the use of cranes the heaviness lifts; the mood feels light and inspirational. Cassandra’s bad thoughts say goodbye, revealing there’s “no substitute for authenticity.” The audience smile as the boy doll tells Cassandra she’s beautiful. The moment is tender and gorgeously philosophical.
Audience members remark how they feel suddenly lightened, as though a weight they weren’t aware of had been lifted from their chest.
‘Cassandra & The Boy Doll’ performs This Must Be The Place until 22 May as part of Anywhere Festival which runs until 21 May.