Can you fall in love with someone if you don’t know their gender? Peter is about to find out when he falls for the sexually ambiguous ‘Blue’. Their relationship poses a challenge to Peter’s identity, forcing him to face some difficult questions: To what extent are we all encouraged to conform to narrow culturally defined stereotypes, to label and to pigeon-hole ourselves?
Are these labels a form of straight jacket, by adapting to them do we compromise our true nature and can we defy the ultimate label of gender? Does this pressure to conform inevitably give rise to derision and hatred towards those who by choice or inclination, stand outside society’s norms?
I find topics out of the “norm” really interesting which is why I was drawn to seeing Boy Stroke Girl. I know enough people who don’t fit in to societies regular pigeonholes to be accepting of who they are as people but if I was romantically interested in them would their genitals make a difference to my feelings?
The short show very quickly introduces us to the fascinating character of Blue who knows who they are, are comfortable with it and most importantly for the audience are more than happy to explain to others why they have chosen the path that they have. Excluding Peter, the other smaller parts give a fair range of reactions to how Blue chooses to represent themselves so you’re very likely to see some of yourself in one of these characters.
Blue’s interactions with each make us think about what our own reactions would be in the same situation and instead of heading down a more typical route of stubbornness and refusal to learn allows us the opportunity to understand things from Blue’s perspective. I wish more people were like Blue and able to calmly (most of the time) explain their position without sounding patronising. I do wish though that Blue showed some signs of being accepting of those people who choose to accept their own labels as at times this does feel a tad hypocritical.
The Etcetera theatre is a small space allowing room only for an intimate audience. This combined with the simple set allows the very talented acting to shine through without any distractions (although personally I found Blue’s accent to be a tad jarring which was a shame) and almost makes you feel as though you are part of the play.
Boy stroke girl is a very creative a thought-provoking piece of art but I do wonder if people who aren’t already fairly open-minded would bother going to see something like this so I’m unsure how many people’s opinions would be changed by it. Even after the show I’m still not certain what my actual real life response would be were I to find myself in Peter’s shoes.
Catch it for yourself at the Etcetera Theatre above The Oxford Arms pub in Camden Town until the 12th March.