Review: Safe Space, Gilded Balloon at Rose Theatre

Safe Place is a play which brings together the personal and the bigger picture. It explores the conflict between trans rights and third wave feminism through the lens of a relationship between two women with opposing views and experiences.

The play begins when Rowane, a young trans woman, knocks on the door of feminist scholar Martine’s home in search of shelter. Though the two get along at first, the newly formed friendship is tested when Martine reveals more about her views, undermining the experience of Rowane as a transgender woman. This dynamic is effective, allowing the play to become a space in which to explore what exclusionary feminism means for transgender people. It is incredibly timely, and gives audiences a new lens through which to view the topic.

As well as making hugely important points about trans rights and the ways in which feminism can contradict itself, this play is also a nuanced exploration and challenge to the meaning of a ‘safe space’ or place. It questions what is meant by a safe space, and what safe spaces mean for people who face violence and oppression from much of the external world. In the home of Martine, where Rowane expects to find safety and acceptance, she is at first met by an ideology that invalidates her womanhood. It is a clever microcosm of the struggles often faced by transgender people within feminism.

Performances from Jennifer Black and Shane Convery who play our two protagonists are incredibly strong. Black brings a wry humour to her role; she is sarcastic one moment and warm the next. Shane Convery also plays Rowane with nuance, bringing both vulnerability and strength to the character. There are scenes in which the truth of the consequences of the oppression of trans people are revealed are shocking and incredibly moving.

Rowane is a character who offers an alternative to the often singular narrative of life as a transgender person that we see in the mainstream. ‘Safe Place’ shows a different truth, bringing to life the realities of the threats of violence that transgender people face regularly.

Safe Place is a shining example of art for a cause. As well as being educational, it is also brave and bold.

Safe Place played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.