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REVIEW: The Butch Monologues @ The Marlborough, 15/11/2017

The Verse’s Csenge Krokovay reviews The Butch Monologues, at the Friends’ Meeting House, organised by The Marlborough Theatre on Wednesday 15th November.

The tickets for Wednesday show of The Butch Monologues were sold out weeks before the actual event. As we know, Brighton is outstanding with its famous queer community, so there is no surprise why the Brighton showing celebrated with a full house on 15th November. The performance was held in the Friends’ Meeting House, since perhaps the Marlborough’s theatre room simply did not have enough space to be able to host the show.

The auditorium quickly filled up with people; curious people, femmes, butches and dykes. Girls dressed as men, and men dressed as girls. Identity and gender constructs has always been an every-day demand of society and may still prevail, however, gazing around the theatre that night, you could not categorise. What really matters is what is on the inside.

‘It is only the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye’ – Saint-Exupery

Not long after we occupied our seats, four members of The Drakes (a group of butch women and non binary folk), the writer Laura Bridgeman, and the sign interpreter arrived on the stage. We were keen to hear the 50 stories of the forever-growing collection of The Butch Monologues. The composition contains more than 100 interviews with Butches, collected by Laura, from all around the world. She has interviewed a wide range of people between 19 and 73 years, and continues to gather stories from the audience whilst the production is on tour.

The show is thought-out in a very unique way. There is a list of stories from which the artists pick each time and, also, there is a change in the performers in every single show. The performers constantly have to adjust to different characters whilst they are reading. Laura also pointed out that the show is trying to keep fresh with involving local butches to read stories in their local area.

‘You won’t see two identical performances.’ –The Drakes

On Wednesday night we got Zed, Jamie, Krishna and Emma (her first time in the show) to read the stories for us.  Braces, suits, and a kilt appeared on stage.  We heard a lot about style, a very important topic in a butch’s life. We also heard stories on exclusion, sexism, misinterpretation, suicide, mental illness, family, sex, funny and less funny toilet stories. The show was filled with lots of butch terms like: bottom, top, switch, dominant, femme, dyke.

Some stories were sad. ‘I was rejecting men…my dad kicked me out…I was incredibly suicidal and lonely.’  Some immersive or moving, ‘Having long hair was a torture. I thought I was a boy in my head.’ but mostly humorous, ‘I love anal!’ said Zed looking at the sign interpreter Ross, who, after a gulp, shortly translated it with his hands into pumping moves. The story of the butch friends coming down to Brighton was one of the stories I could completely relate to. ‘We dressed up fully…on the street; I thought people were mocking us. And we thought: you have no idea how hot we are’.

‘We tell stories of our own and also other people’s stories’– Laura Bridgeman

There are so many unspoken topics about butches; sex, desire, feelings, body image (which is the most complicated one). And we can see it all on stage and gain an insight into the life of butches. We need this kind of show, because there is still a lot to work on for the LGBTQ+ societies. For instance, the term ‘butch’ still has a negative connotation in some places. There are no realistic butch characters in the media. ‘Even now in TV shows, I don’t see anyone who I think I could be’ – Jamie. Or the questions about butches and family. Butch people have children; most of us are mothers.

‘It is a thing people, get over it’ – The Drakes.

And so, The Butch Monologues wants to give a positive, real representation of butches. They do it very well, in an incredible engaging way which sticks you to your seat.

The field is an empty canvas, there is still a lot to discover. I’m sure Laura and The Drakes will perform for a very long time.  As they said, maybe they will come up with a butch musical next or the baby butch monologues, who knows. Anyway, it is an important, must-see production for all.

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