Boy in a Dress** (Battersea Arts Centre, 22 February 2013)

Posted: February 27, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

Describing herself as a third-gendered fallen Catholic, La JohnJoseph here performs her own autobiographical near-monologue (albeit with two supporting performances) interspersed with a few melancholic songs. Born on the day of Pope Jean Paul II’s visit to Liverpool, she tells of her life as a boy and adolescence in that city and then the discovery of her spiritual home in New York. Living with her mother and several step-fathers and indoctrinated by a faith out of sync with her inner self, her life was that of an outsider struggling to find her place in the World. Essentially, this show is a display of defiance combined with a plea for tolerance and acceptance. The story is not punctuated by particularly dramatic incidents, pivotal events or even anecdotes that are more than mildly amusing, it is simply a statement of who the writer/performer is and what made her so. And this is the main problem, because there is nothing new on offer. 50 years ago, Quentin Crisp, for example, could have startled us all with similar material, but the World (or at least the Western World) has now moved on and has already embraced the messages contained here. If this show seems dated, it is for all the right reasons. In view of these reservations about the material, the show stands or falls as an entertainment on La JohnJoseph’s performance. On a set that looks like a second hand furniture showroom, littered with bric-a-brac, she talks, sings, strips, observes and philosophises. She is not a terrific singer, her voice grates but she can sell a song. And she is not a terrific raconteuse, but she has charisma which, although faltering at the start, grows as the show progresses. Her story is about overcoming adversity and, so art imitates life and she just about wins over the audience. Just.

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