THEATRE: The Butch Monologues
Written by Jasmin Van Houten
It’s raw, honest stories that really shine on a small theatre stage, and The Butch Monologues has plenty of those.
Showing at Theatre Works as part of the Midsumma festival, The Butch Monologues is a rich tapestry of real stories from ‘masculine of centre’ butch and trans experiences. This is the first time the touring show, written by Laura Bridgeman and directed by Julie McNamarahas, has been performed in Australia.
It draws on snippets of hundreds of interviews collected over six years and still being added to, with butches, masculine women, transmen, non-binary and genderqueer people, worldwide. The monologues are rough sketches, the set is bare and unassuming, but this lets the deeply human experience that is at the centre shine through, providing a platform for marginalised voices to be heard. The cast is a mix of professionals and amateurs, who all identified as butch lesbians, non-binary and transmen. Each show is unique, with the stories and the cast constantly changing.
The Butch Monologues provides a unique platform to explore identity politics and aspects of a ‘masc-of-centre’ experiences that are illuminating, deeply moving and breathtakingly funny, often all in the same minute. As a starkly honest piece, Bridgeman has not shied away from representing a diverse range of butch and trans or female-masculine experiences. Her curation covers secret stories of sex and desire, gender dysphoria, the intersections of disability and butch identity, race, gender performativity and disruption, masochism and misogyny in butch spaces. Advocacy and education is blended skillfully with humour and self-awareness.
The show is followed by a Q&A session with Bridgeman, McNamara and the cast, which is equally candid and open, and highlights the personality and personal experience of the readers. In the intimate space of the Theatre Works venue, the line between cast and audience is blurred, and no question is off-limits - everything is handled tactfully.
Some of the voices revelled in their masculine energy, while some voices claimed the expectations that came with masculinity made butchness “feel like a prison”, preferring instead a liminal space of gender expression. The resounding message is clear: Butch is not a dirty word. This is a show that is as nuanced and complex as the lives of those behind the voices we hear. The Butch Monologues is a must-see theatre piece.
The Butch Monologues , part of Midsumma Festival is on at Theatre Works from 27 January to 3 February 2019
More info and tickets available here.