PRONOUN by Evan Placey

Performed by Dorchester Youth Theatre Senior Company

When the lights go down in Dorchester Corn Exchange, the last thing many of the audience would expect to see is a teenage boy stood centre stage, in a ball gown. But the performance of Pronoun (Evan Placey) by the Senior Company of Dorchester Youth Theatre, (DYT) starts as it means to go on. Pushing the boundaries to explore gender, mental health, sexuality and young love, DYT have created a raw, honest performance, and its success was reflected on the faces of each and every audience member.

The story follows childhood sweethearts, Josh and Isabella as they experience the ups and downs of all relationships, the exception being, Isabella is now Dean. The portrayal of Dean by Ivy Langley showcases the talent DYT has to offer. Encompassing the struggles of gender transformation, alongside the social issues of being a young adult, Langley opens the audiences eyes to the mental health effects associated with growing up with gender dysphoria. Speaking to her prized James Dean poster, embodied by Christian Hardy, Langley and Hardy’s interactions add a dimension of humour, whilst breaking down the stereotypes associated with being transgender.

The poignancy of the piece is reflected not only in Dean’s battle, but the emotions as those around him come to terms with Dean’s transition. Watching Josh, played by Sam Beavis, combat his own doubts as he deals with being in love with Dean, makes for more than one tearful moment. The interchanging mother and father roles, performed by Olivia Pearson and Archie Rowell, add a further dimension of emotion, to an audience with many parents. The challenges of these characters are both provoking and poignant, and are portrayed superbly by Pearson and Rowell.

A minimal set, made up largely of a washing line of clothes and bunting, there was nothing to detract from the emotive performance of each and every individual. Made up of a company of 14 to 16 year olds, these young people showcased engagement and understanding of a topic many in the audience could not comprehend. The performance broke down the emotional and physical barriers of the very real challenges faced by those with gender dysmorphia and their loved ones.

Once again, Director Jo Simons has proved Dorchester Youth Theatre’s exceptional capability of taking a challenge, and crafting it into a thought-provoking, excellently executed piece of theatre. I cannot wait to see what they have in store next.

Review by Alice Dodd