Star of new LGBT play 'Safe' reflects on masculinity and trans roles in theatre

2016-10-21
Verbatim theatre piece, Safe, about homeless and at risk LGBT youth created in association with the Albert Kennedy Trust opens on October 17th at London Theatre Workshop. Safe's creator, playwright Alexis Gregory, sat down with out trans-male cast member, Kit Redstone for a chat. Do you identify as an 'actor who happens to be trans', or as a 'trans actor', or perhaps neither? I identify as both! Playing a trans role I identify as a trans actor; my experiences inform the role, playing a cis-gendered character; it doesn't feel necessarily relevant. How do you feel about your being 'out' in terms of our industry? Being out as a trans actor has been positive; there seems to be a recent explosion of trans stories. I'm aware though that this interest may die down. I'd hope my agent and casting directors can see past my trans status and consider me for different roles too. Did you ever consider not coming out as trans as an actor? Not really. I think it's really important to wear our status with pride to pave a better future for the trans community. The more trans characters the public see on screen and stage the better. What kind of roles do you play? In my own work I often play variations of myself. Outside of my own work, I love to play extreme, tricky characters. Tami in Safe is most definitely one of these, making her both challenging and exciting to play. My dream role is someone brutal and powerful, like Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast. As a trans man, how are you finding playing a trans woman? It's a challenge, but a good one thanks to both Alexis's brilliant curation of the texts and Robert Chevara's awesome directing. Before transitioning I'd have felt really uncomfortable playing a woman; too close to home. Now, I'm so rooted in my sense of masculinity, ironically it has given me the foundation of confidence to be able to play a woman without it feeling strange for me. I'm also able to reflect with compassion on my history in the body of a woman and to draw from this in my rendering of the character. There is something liberating about playing a woman which I had not anticipated. Can you tell us a bit about Tami and what do you think of her? I love Tami. She's the kind of woman I would want to be friends with. She is a real trickster in the best sense. I think she's an incredible mix of formidable and extremely loving. When I think of her, I think of fireworks popping and fizzing and making everyone say 'wow'. What do you think of non-trans actors playing trans roles? Its a tricky one. I think that the biggest danger of cis actors playing trans roles is the fact that it just reinforces the notion that there is a man beneath the woman. There are clearly plenty of trans actors out there. Its time that we were more visible. I also think there is a vast under-representation of trans men in particular. I know that you are interested in the idea of masculinity and exploring it as a concept. What are your thoughts on masculinity and are they perhaps informed by your status as trans male? I do think about masculinity a lot. It's very important to me not to echo the traits of masculinity that I find problematic. I'm aware that the gender I have transitioned to has a history of female oppression and privilege. I often check my behaviour for those reasons. I'm fascinated by the performativity of masculinity and societal pressures that surround this. I think masculinity is a hot topic at the moment because we're coming round to the reality that to change the world for the better we do have to address toxic notions of masculinity. Post Safe, what's next for Kit? A show I've written and co-directed with Rhum and Clay Theatre Company called 'Testosterone' about masculinity and a pivotal moment in a men's changing room at The New Diorama Theatre from 22nd November . I've also written a new play for director Lina Hoelscher which will be on at Graz's National Theatre in January. Safe will be performed at the London Theatre Workshop from 17-22 October. Grab tickets at londontheatreworkshop.co.uk.