Nevo Zisin in Gender Euphoria. Pic: Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

Festivals, Stage

Gender Euphoria review (Melbourne International Arts Festival)

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Taking to the stage inside the Spiegeltent, the artists of Gender Euphoria are collectively the largest cast of trans and gender-diverse performers ever assembled on-stage in Australia. After appearing at this year’s Midsumma festival, they’re back for a run at the Melbourne International Arts Festival, together weaving a textured tapestry in the form of a variety show. The result transcends, subverts and plays with gender from all angles.

Introducing proceedings is Melbourne Cabaret performer Mama Alto, donning a trans flag and showing off some powerhouse vocals. Having co-created the show with director Maude Davey, she kicks things off with a funny, telling anecdote about engaging in a political survey over the phone (“If you’re a man, press 1,” the automated voice says. “If you’re a woman press 2.” She defiantly chooses neither, noting that human beings are not computers – we don’t have to think in binaries.)

From there, serious monologues intermingle with powerful lip-synch performances and some impressive acrobatics, the result becoming a deeply-felt rejection of gender dysphoria in favour of gender euphoria.

There are no weak links in the strong cast, each performing for around 10 minutes at a time. Highlights include a performance from Crystal Love, joining proceedings from the Tiwi Islands and presenting a defiant lip-synch performance to Kygo’s dance remix of Whitney Houston’s Higher Love. A perfectly timed, pointed routine from comedian and performance artist Krishna Istha brought the house down.

The combination of Mahla Bird’s technical skill with the razzle-dazzle lighting created a heightened emotional state underscoring the show’s title.

There were some stellar acrobatics courtesy of Mahla Bird, with the audience donning special glasses that made the strobe lighting dazzle extra brightly. The combination of Bird’s technical skill with the razzle-dazzle lighting created a heightened emotional state underscoring the show’s title. Somehow, a final sing-along from the whole cast managed to top even this, with the audience rising to its feet for a well-deserved standing ovation.

In refusing to shy away from emotional honesty and also unashamedly seizing the opportunity to celebrate trans and gender diverse identity, Gender Euphoria creates the kind of depth of feeling you want to last long after the performance fades from memory. It succeeds at making you feel human; in other words, binary thinking be damned.

Gender Euphoria plays the Famous Spiegeltent, Arts Centre Melbourne Forecourt, until October 20.

Tickets: $30-$39, artscentremelbourne.com.au

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