EDINBURGH 2013 - BWW Reviews: XY, Pleasance Courtyard, August 1 2013
XY is a show with an intriguing concept - it comprises several short plays, all written without specifying gender. It's a great idea, and one that makes you consider just how many writers will default to stereotypes when creating characters. This is especially the case where female characters are still so frequently cast only as accessories to male characters or to deal with "female themes", so it's nice to see an opportunity for women to take prominent roles that do not revolve around their gender.
Each performance of XY comprises four short plays, and the opening four provided an interesting mix. The show began with the strongest offering, "Hopelessly Devoted to You" by German Munoz, an interesting tale of the relationship between a disabled person and the partner they discover to be a "devotee" - someone who is particularly attracted to those with disabilities. The two people in the relationship just happened to both be female, but with the concept in mind, this was written simply as a relationship, rather than specifically a lesbian relationship, allowing the show to successfully present interesting female characters and an LGBT relationship without objectification.
Similarly, Rose Lewenstein's "Spunk", featured male and female characters alluding in an offhand manner to sexual experience with partners of the same gender as the performer who portrayed them. Presenting non-heterosexual characters without their sexuality being the focus is refreshing, if unfortunately rare. "Spunk" was also a witty little short, skilfully puncturing modern media attitudes and particularly the drive for content novel to go viral, raising several chuckles from the audience in the process.
In "The Endings Part 1", Sara Pascoe takes the ambiguity of character and weaves it into an ambiguous tale of three apparent children, who take turns constructing fantasies surrounding the recent death and funeral of a fourth member of their group. The show then concludes with Afsaneh Gray's "EverWeather", a piece featuring two marketing professionals argue over how to brand a new toy product who behaves in a rather more lifelike fashion than they were anticipating. I feel it could have been more interesting as part of this programme had the toy in question been portrayed by a male performer, as casting a female in the part of the commodified object seemed a little easy.
These were four of the sixteen plays featured in XY, with the repertoire changing each week of the Fringe. The nature of this script experiment gives an excellent chance to confront themes of gender essentialism and to reflect on how gender often skews the views of both writers and audiences, while also showcasing some interesting scripts. If Papercut Theatre's aim was a great argument for more gender neutral writing and casting, and an entertaining hour's theatre, then they have succeeded.
XY runs at the Pleasance Courtyard August 1st - 25th (not 12th) at 1245.