[author-post-rating] (4/5 Stars)
In a not-too-distant future, where technological advances have created total gender fluidity, people transition between sexes – referred to as “becoming New” – as many as hundreds of times. In this intriguing sci-fi piece by Joe White, Fat Git Theatre looks at the human desire to continually reinvent oneself through a premise that is certainly not too far-fetched to be believable. In fact, occasionally, it is not quite far-fetched enough.
There are a few moments in Specie where viewing identity through the prism of gender feels a little risky. After all, there are already ways of changing one’s sex, albeit not with half the ease or cultural acceptance seen here. It’s more that at times, the constant transitioning is uncomfortably evocative of the shallow criticisms sometimes levelled at gender reassignment: that once they have had the surgery, transgender people might just want to ‘change back’. Still, this clearly isn’t the intention here and White does enough to make it clear that the concept of changing gender is largely irrelevant, merely a springboard for looking at self-identity and reinvention.
Our entrance into this brave new world is through a nuclear family of sorts; ‘of sorts’ because the mother is New and there is some discussion about doing what would be best for their child while little Lucy is still young. Her father points out how much better, statistically, men are likely to do than women – so shouldn’t they help her get to the top if they can? White seems to be inviting a comparison with parents who spend thousands of pounds and hours of their time trying to get their children a head-start, crow-barring them into the best schools or uprooting the family to move to better catchment areas, and asking, where does it stop?
While White takes the concept in some interesting, unexpected directions, his good script is made great thanks to Fat Git Theatre’s confident production. Atmosphere is added by live music from two guitarists, who enter and exit as appropriate, disguised with lamp shades at the edges of people’s homes or forcibly stopped by actors when there is a change of tone. It’s slick enough not to feel excessively experimental or pretentious – just original. All this is set off by performances from a talented young ensemble cast and Josh Roche’s direction. Stylish, inventive and remarkably assured, Roche makes the most even of the scene changes, which might otherwise have become wearying thanks to Specie‘s vignette-style layout. Specie is a great example of an interesting concept carried off with pure class by a talented young company.
Specie is at the Pleasance Courtyard every day until 26 August. For more information and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.