REVIEW – Cassandra and the Boy Doll

Heavenly and earthly bodies collide in this shining deconstruction and reconciliation of trans identities. Life after transitioning – in Cassandra, it’s less a state of being and more a question: Once you’ve been let into the club of womanhood, what follows? With a simple answer – death – we plunge into a dense work that, appropriately, touches on the typical stages of grief – there’s denial […]
Heavenly and earthly bodies collide in this shining deconstruction and reconciliation of trans identities.

Life after transitioning – in Cassandra, it’s less a state of being and more a question: Once you’ve been let into the club of womanhood, what follows?

With a simple answer – death – we plunge into a dense work that, appropriately, touches on the typical stages of grief – there’s denial (of the male persona), anger (at self-betrayal), bargaining (for survival, economic and mental), depression (over struggle, within and without), and finally acceptance (before ultimately, death and rebirth). If death seems too simple an answer, rest assured that it’s the killing that provides the meat of the work – delving into shared histories of struggle, suppression, and the delicate balance of truth and deceit.

Magnetic North’s focus on marginalised voices and their commitment to an all-queer production, and specifically trans actors in trans roles, is admirable and increasingly important considering current political climates. Though it means that acting quality can vary (perhaps revealing the relative youth of the cast), these minor issues of quality are outshone by the beating heart of the script and the enthusiasm of both cast and crew. Limited amount of space in the art-gallery-turned-theatre means you may not always have the “best” view of the action, but clean and clever set design means you always have something to keep your attention.
While the quality of the delivery may vary, the writing remains the work’s standout feature, alternately laugh-out-loud funny and depressing but ever poetic in its description of the trans experience. The script covers a lot of ground (from parents, to porn, to the playground), always punchy, witty and endearing, never caught up in moroseness or melodrama – as if examining the proceedings with a certain wry, well-experienced sense of distance. While there’s a wealth of excellent scenes to pick from (typically, excellent parodies), the conclusion bears mentioning – monologues on the nature of struggle and celestial bodies, transforming into a scene out of greek mythology – a breathtakingly beautiful collaboration of direction, performance and costuming, resembling the birth of a new star.
If you fit under the queer umbrella, if you have any interest in the trans experience or trans voices, or you just want to witness a witty, well-written and well directed play, I really can’t recommend Cassandra highly enough – a bold and memorable work absolutely worthy of your time and dollar.

Reviewed by Jason Lomas

Purchase tickets to Cassandra and the Boy Doll here

Learn more about Magnetic North Theatre Company here

This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 14.