Kate O’Donnell’s art-deco tale of transitioning, You’ve Changed is told with class, sass, and incredible wit. Honest and hilarious.
Tranisitioning in 2003 felt more like transitioning in the 1930s for Kate O’Donnell, as no-one really knew how to go about it. O’Donnell faces the music and dances through this romp of a retelling of her transition in You’ve Changed.
I really couldn’t wait to see O’Donnell’s new show, especially being completely bowled over by Big Girl’s Blouse during London Pride last year. The thing I absolutely love about O’Donnell is how she’s managed to keep her humour despite everything she’s been through and continues to put up with. Trans people can sometimes be criticised for being humourless: if you knew what they’d been through, then you wouldn’t be fucking surprised! Yet O’Donnell has managed to maintain a viperous wit and hilarious creativity through everything that they’ve been through.
O’Donnell’s framing of transitioning in 2003 being like the 1930s is a really nice device, but ultimately, it doesn’t actually bear much relevance, other than provide some lovely little period interludes which varies the pace of the show quite well. The absolute core of You’ve Changed is O’Donnell’s delivery of their account of transitioning, which is pretty damn perfect. You’ve Changed is such a wry but brutally honest account that strikes a perfect level of explanation without being over-simplified, and also about raising awareness of trans issues without ever being aggressive or militant. In short, O’Donnell approaches the audience for You’ve Changed not as ignoramuses or hostiles, but as people with at least a curiosity and awareness of transitioning, and proceeds with going through a bit more detail that you might not know, and introducing you to a trans point of view that you might not have considered. Her dry comic take on the ups and downs of transitioning keeps you laughing, whilst her warmth and hospitality keeps you engaged.
As mentioned, the 1930s framing of You’ve Changed does indeed give O’Donnell opportunities to vary the pace by breaking it up with things like dance routines, but also with a nice bit of audience interaction too. All are there to make sure you connect with O’Donnell’s account and ensure you never get bored of her (although, I doubt you would even without these devices). As well as being faced with the possibility of a chat with a very personal side of O’Donnell, these little skits and interactions are welcomed and fun, and add that little bit extra. There’s a real level of thought about You’ve Changed not just as a piece of storytelling, but an all-round piece of performance, and it works brilliantly.
Donnell’s performance is pretty faultless. At all times she’s aware of and engaging with the audience. There’s an amazing warmth and wit that you can’t switch-off from. You’ve Changed is a story O’Donnell wants to tell and also really enjoys telling it. But it’s not one of self-indulgence, but instead comes from a real desire to educate people about transitioning. O’Donnell is not just a consummate performer, but a glittering and hugely important spokesperson.
As fiery as Ginger and as astounding as Astair, You’ve Changed is a riotous retro romp through transitioning that will leave you both laughing and enlightened.