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Friday, June 14, 2024

Theatre review: Testosterone is bold, brave, bawdy and beautiful

Inventive and often subversive story explores what it means to be a man

Testosterone, currently on stage at the York Theatre, may only be 65-minutes long, but it only serves to reinforce the age-old proverb that good remarkable things really do come in small packages.

In his early thirties, Kit Redstone transitioned from female to male. It is in questioning how he fits into his new masculine world that forms the basis for Testosterone.

More than a sorrowful tale about the difficulties of transitioning though, Redstone takes a brilliantly subversive, and often very funny, approach inside one of the most masculine of locations: the men’s change room at a gym.

That isn’t to say there are not moments of real pain inside Testosterone, but Redstone is true to his words from his recent interview with Vancouver Presents, largely staying away from a trans narrative “about suffering”. Instead, there is an almost joyful discovery of manhood that will bring audiences to tears.

This is no easy feat for a show that holds a critical mirror (quite literally in Alberta Jones’ wonderful set design) to our perceptions of what it means to be a man, while simultaneously taking a gentle swipe at how trans stories are told. But then that is what good satire is supposed to do.

Redstone accomplishes this all with the help of fellow performers William Donaldson, Julian Spooner and Matthew Wells through humour, song, physical theatre, and dance.

"It felt really urgent to address notions of toxic masculinity and explore the question, what does it mean to be a man?" - Kit Redstone
Testosterone explores what it means to be a man from inside one of the most masculine of locations: the men’s change room at a gym. Photo by Luke Forsyth.

While it is easy to see how a show of such theatrical diversity could collapse under its own weight, this quartet, under Spooner’s stage and Well’s movement direction, make it all work seamlessly.

Donaldson is particularly good here, providing his own transition to “The Diva”, in a performance that includes lip-synching to pre-recorded opera, to live vocals that includes a hilarious but empowering rendition of “It’s Raining Men”.

Taking on the roles of “Marlon Brando” and “The Sportsman”, Spooner and Wells are just as invested in the material as Redstone, who constantly breaks the fourth wall to bring us along with him on this/his journey.

Along with the performances, much of what makes Testosterone work though is in the unexpected. From the use of a song from Disney’s The Jungle Book, to a breathtakingly brave and hilarious Mexican standoff, the inventiveness of the material is as unique as it is entertaining and thought-provoking.

Audacious in its presentation, Testosterone asks an equally bold question: what does it mean to be a man? And even while it may not provide a complete and tidy answer, it is a question that will linger, like the show itself, long after you leave the theatre.

Testosterone by Kit Restone. Directed by Julian Spooner. A Rhum and Clay Theatre Company & Kit Redstone production. Presented by The Cultch and Zee Zee Theatre. On stage at the York Theatre (639 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) until October 13. Visit for tickets and information.

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