TRAVESTY / Fight in the Dog

Travesty is a play dealing with transitions. From one state of life to the next. Between innocence and ageing masquerading as experience. From a romantic relationships move from cradle to grave. From early 20s insouciance to the creeping fear that this might be all you’ve got. From dissatisfaction to, well, what exactly?

Both Lydia Larsen and Pierro Niel-Mee are two typical-ish archetypes. She- playing the older, acerbic, disillusioned (and male) teacher Ben- is full of a coiled tension hiding behind an aloofly ironic exterior. He- playing middle-class (and female) PR executive Anna- is full of easy first-flush of youth optimism. Their relationship is charted over four acts, from enraptured beginnings to fraught, bitter end.

It’s a play that creates a certain sense of frisson in the audience by subverting lazy gender norms, not by doing anything wildly radical, but by simply by inverting them. There’s the possessive slaps that Larsen gives Niel-Mee on the behind. There’s the shamed covering of the male, not female nipple. And then there’s the language.

What is ‘female’ language? For that matter, what is ‘male’ language? It’s not so much a question that’s taken up, but rather a set of cliched assumptions played out for comic effect. Anna, at points, both sly and circumlocutory and we’re invited to laugh at our smug assumptions because it’s coming out of a man's body. Ben is, at points, gruff and absurdly affected. Again, we are invited to laugh because it’s a set of language and gestures that we aren’t primed to ‘expect’ coming from a certain kind of body.

What keeps the work from merely reinforcing these stereotypes is that the writing is good enough to subtly acknowledge that we as an audience are having our own assumptions played with and teased out. Not only is Travesty a play explicitly dealing with all of the manifold day-to-day compromises we make to sustain, or break, relationships; it’s a play that forces you to acknowledge the compromises we make in communicating through our bodies and our imperfect language. (FG)

Travesty played at Assembly George Square Studios -

A Short Introductory Essay on Judith Butler-

How to Shake Up Gender Norms- 

Performative Acts and Gender Constitution-

The Non-Verbal Semantics of Power & Gender-