Sound Cistem, VAULT Festival

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by Grace Bouchard

Heart-thumping music blaring, performers Ayden Brouwers and Lizzie Morris take the stage. As they dance towards each other, vibrant disco lights hitting their slow moving bodies, they ask “How do we look?” and “How do you look?”. It is at this point that we realise why we are here. We are here to look, and to observe.  Simply through the act of being in the room with them, I am complicit in demonstrating the impact the cis gaze has on transgender bodies.

Formally, the piece does little to distract from its main objective; its simplicity is what makes it so effective. We hear very little from Brouwers and Morris, instead the voices we hear are all audio clips from interviews with trans and non-binary people sharing how it feels to be looked at and how they see themselves. A particularly arresting line sticks with me: “no human’s life should be controversial.” Plaster Cast Theatre have succeeded in doing what so many seem to fail at these days – they have given full authorship to the subjects, which unfortunately feels revolutionary in a time when many pieces often exploit the lives of others to make challenging theatre.

Brouwers and Morris have choreographed a full hour of dancing and movement that beautifully illustrates the voices we hear above the music. Though untrained dancers, they embody the interviewees’ voices, fully expressing the emotions underlying them with such intensity that they’re impossible to stop watching. It’s the movement of the piece that sometimes feels more like a backing track than the sounds we are hearing, however without the physical commentary, the piece would not be half as stirring or vulnerably honest.

The lasting message of Sound Cistem is one of unity and acceptance. Though the piece can feel didactic, it is in the end just that. In order to understand one another, first we must see them, listen and learn. Plaster Cast has created in their audience a community within which we see each other simply for who we are. As we shake hands on our way out of the theatre, I feel lucky to have witnessed them.

Sound Cistem runs through 6 February.

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