Bullish, Camden People’s Theatre


Asterion wanders through the night, in a world that doesn’t really fit them. The minotaur of Greek myth, Asterion is the only one of their kind to exist. Asterion is bull-ish, neither human nor bull. Or, both human and bull. Either way, they’re on the hunt for adventure and way out of a labyrinth.

Milk Presents, creators of last year’s hit JOAN, again looks at history through a contemporary trans and genderqueer lens. Here, the Greek myth is broken into fragments and interspersed with short scenes derived from the personal experiences of trans people, from inappropriate questions to microaggressions from cis men. Though the piece feels like it’s still in the earlier stages of its development, it has plenty of emotional resonance and laughs.

The initial scenes take some time to find a consistent pace that doesn’t let the energy drop, but once it does, the ensemble is an unstoppable force. Despite the juddering intro, it’s an empowering look at the right to take up space and own it, and to move without giving way to those who believe they have more right to travel through life unobstructed.

The creature labelled as a monster and pursued to the death by virtue of it simply being what it is, is an effective metaphor for the discrimination transpeople and other minority groups face. It also offers a thought-provoking, alternative view of character tropes in classical literature. The scenes following this narrative are generally stronger, though the others provoke laughter and draw on gig and cabaret aesthetics.

Some of the performers are stronger than others, with Lucy Jane Parkinson capturing the most emotional range and vulnerability. There are a few moments of clumsy delivery, but these lessen as the cast finds the rhythm of the piece. Music is used well, though too infrequently to make the existing numbers feel embedded into the work.

But the real power in Bullish is its confident reclamation of the gender-normative, classical myth and the power that gives to trans, NB and those of other genders. Though it needs some streamlining, the core of the piece is there, well-formed and focused. It’s exciting and celebratory, whilst simultaneously busting apart the problems with classical literature and mocking the narrow-mindedness of those who don’t understand there are more than two genders.

Bullish runs through 30 September.

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