Originally posted to broadwaybaby.com
There are 36 shows at the Fringe by trans performers, according to the TransFringe hashtag on Twitter, and Edalia Day’s Too Pretty to Punchmight be the only one that’s both centrally about trans issues and specifically wants an audience that doesn’t already know everything that’s about to be said.
Trans academic Grace Lavery writes, “once one has spent any time with a trans woman, the abstract questions tend to disappear” and Day, who is non-binary and transfeminine, works off this assumption. Their combination of spoken word poetry and songs take you through not the abstract “transgender debate” which rages on television, platforming transphobic non-experts and engendering hate, but the lived reality of going through the world as a transgender person – from concerns about passing judgement or violence from passersby, discrimination in the workplace and rejection from social situations to inner doubts, fears and pressure from within the trans community to be a certain way.
Day educates on all these topics and more without ever once becoming patronising or depressing – an incredible accomplishment. Their songs, poems and sketches are genuinely hilarious, but their power is evident. If you have questions about the harm of the television driven “transgender debate” I mentioned earlier, for example, you’ll learn a lot about the way trans people experience it as Day responds to a reporter with heartrendingly evocative metaphor, only to be drastically misinterpreted, and then to be brought on a talk show to debate the misinterpretation with the fictional author of a celebrity hummus cookbook.
While Day is the only performer, much of the show interacts with incredibly produced projections which layer in images and voices that add immeasurably to many sections. The technical accomplishment of these interactive elements outstrips work I’ve seen on much, much bigger budget productions and their humour, artistic value and contribution to the show are undeniable.
Too Pretty to Punch is the rare queer show that I have no qualms recommending to anyone. People like me who will identify with Day’s struggles directly should jump on the chance to see a show with a lot to say about, and some truly beautiful insight into, our lives. Everyone else – whether you’ve never met a trans person before or you’re already an active ally – should see this show to be brought into the experience in a truly special way that only the best theatre can accomplish.
I'm Alex, a theatre-maker based in the Bay Area with an outpost in Edinburgh, Scotland.