Monday, 26 May 2014


Photo Credit:  West Yorkshire Playhouse

"Once upon a time there was a girl.  And then there wasn't."

Pronoun was on during the National Theatre Connections Festival of Plays performed by Youth Theatres and schools.  Young people have an opportunity to create and perform plays on stage.  The West Yorkshire Playhouse hosted one of the festivals during May. I had the opportunity to see Evan Placey's Pronoun which was part of NT Connections and performed by the West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Theatre under the direction of Gemma Woffinden.  The modern play explores the romantic relationship between Josh and Isabella, who are childhood sweethearts, and their future plans.  Only that Isabella is now Dean.

Pronoun explores challenges and journeys faced by young trans people who since coming out or who haven't yet come out.  The play was performed in a story telling format by the characters who shared their thoughts and feelings and the challenges one faces supporting DeanDean (played by Beth Knight) told his story about his gender transition and its challenges he faced in his life. The motions were convincingly applied such as the passing, binding and backing reflecting his preferred gender.

Dean's Mum (played by Jack Silkstone) and Dad (played by Catherine Hawthorn) told their story about the little girl and what she has now become.  The cross dressing of both the parents reminds us the story's contextual themes.  It's inadvertently felt they were trying to their best to come to terms and understand Dean's gender identity from the research they have done on the matter.

Josh (played by Liam Roberts) expressed his struggles accepting Isabella as Dean and emotively expressed his mixed feelings about Dean's trans journey.  His optimism, however, remained steadfast with the dream of travelling together during their gap years.

Dean aspired to James Dean (played by Ryan Quarmby), an imaginary mentor, whose encouragement and beliefs for Dean to become who he really is.  A wide range of issues were explored in Pronoun such as Dean's wish to be accepted and loved in society for who he is and not for people to 'tolerate' him because they're statutory obliged to, according to the speech he made at the college.  Gender identity and sexuality are subjects which society are not used to dealing with even if there is increased awareness now than ever before.

There are the emotions young trans people face especially the 'conventional' social pressures young people face which can lead to mental health issues and loneliness.  It's such a brave journey trans people goes through as the transition from coming out which can be a long process and the mental and emotional feelings they go through in order to be rightly identified for who they really are.  Dean expressed his frustration in the play, 'Conceal for what I'm not?'.

The play will hopefully raise the awareness of the trans communities including the young trans people.  It's an excellent and very moving play written sensitively by Evan Placey and directed successfully by Gemma Woffenden which raises the crucial awareness of sexuality including transgender.

As Dean (Played by Beth Knight) stated that stories do have a happy ending indicating hope and optimism for the future.  There are some locals groups which are working very hard in supporting awareness and celebrating the positives in order for trans people to have fulfilling lives without hindrance. 

A big thanks to the very talented cast of West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Group and creative team members including Daz Kershaw (Stage Manager), Matt Young and Paul Lovett (Lighting), Martin Pickersgill and Sam Mulligan (Sound).  One's biggest wish is the production be repeated as the raised messages are very important in society today.

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