Jaden Adams, with support from Mary Cooper
Jaden Adams
Salford Arts Theatre, Salford

Listing details and ticket info...

Transparency Credit: Craige Barker
Transparency Credit: Craige Barker
Transparency Credit: Craige Barker
Transparency Credit: Craige Barker
Transparency Credit: Craige Barker

Meeting the parents of your girlfriend is a nerve-racking experience at the best of times. The situation is exacerbated for forklift driver Jack as he is a trans-male. As he prepares for the encounter, Jack cannot help but reflect on the reaction of his parents, workmates and pretty much anyone else he encounters.

A disclaimer states Transparency, while based upon real people and experiences, should not be taken as a true representation of the life or family of Jaden Adams, who wrote the script with support from Mary Cooper and is the sole performer. Nevertheless, as the title suggests, Transparency is a bitingly honest representation of the complexities involved in transitioning.

The most shocking aspect of the play is the depth of anger communicated by Adams, who is furious he is repulsed by the body into which he was born and has a bubbling resentment at the frequency with which people unintentionally or carelessly ignore his gender identity. As a result, Jack is determined to transition fully rather than, as various people suggest, simply adopt a butch personality and male clothing.

Adams seems so distressed, there is the possibility, if transitioning had not been undertaken, a more extreme, terminal option might have been considered. It is, therefore, disturbing to note there is a possibility the gender affirmation surgery for which he is scheduled may not actually work.

Adams recounts the reactions experienced by taking on a variety of roles. His father is characterised as a domineering bully, proud he has been able to accept his daughter might be gay but turning a conversation about transitioning into a physical confrontation. Jack’s mother is simply heartbroken at the loss of her daughter. There is the underlying suggestion Jack has previously led an isolated existence and transitioning forces him to become more social—one of the lads—even if he finds the macho camaraderie and banter not to his taste.

Jack acknowledges the need to take a sensitive approach and use the right pronouns, which means no-one enjoys his company as they find it impossible to relax. The same point could be made about the play. Director Francesca Murray Fuentes does not put the audience at ease. Accordingly, the audience behaves as if the play must be treated with respect and sits reverently in silence, to the extent you can hear rain bouncing off the theatre roof.

The only point at which the audience feels comfortable laughing is a lengthy sequence of Adams describing the complexities of buying and wearing a fake penis. The different types and ways of wearing to get the right effect are described in hilarious detail, with the funniest comment being the text message sent by the delivery company innocently informing Adams his ‘package’ has been delivered.

Whilst obviously meeting the criteria for ‘lived experience’, Transparency is more educational than entertaining and not particularly dramatic. The crisis point happens before the play begins and Jack never doubts his decision, so the play becomes a series of events rather than developments leading to a climax.

Transparency returns to the GM Fringe at The Squad House, Stockport on 20 July 2023 prior to touring.

Reviewer: David Cunningham

Are you sure?