“She’s the wrong kind of trans.”

Is there a right way to be trans?

In the conversations about transphobia and homophobia, one often associates the issues with right-wing conservatives. Most forget the battles between the subcultures within the LGBTQ+ community. 

Cassie Hamilton’s ingenious new musical A Transgender Woman on the Internet, Crying confronts these complex sociopolitical issues through hyper-pop and comedic storytelling. Directed by Gumbaynggirr and Turkish music theatre creative Brittanie Shipway, this raw gem was presented at the Banquet Room of the Adelaide Festival Centre as an in-development live reading showcase after a five-day workshop. 

Hamilton plays Avis O’Hara (@theDIYDoll), a trans social media influencer who lets her followers “The dollmakers” determine her appearance. Avis strives to look and act like a “perfect woman”. Her behaviours are deemed harmful by another trans influencer Corrin Verbeck, played by Adam Noviello, and her friends. While Corrin performs her scheme to take down Avis, they form a genuine connection. 

As a writer and composer, Hamilton is sensational. Despite being a live reading behind music stands, the performance is compelling and captivating. There is not a dull moment. Her words are rhythmic and honest. Her music encapsulates dynamic emotions. Some tunes are undoubtedly earworms. After workshopping with music producer Beau Esposito and musical director Jesse Budel, the score and sound design are effective for emotive and vibrant storytelling.

Hamilton is an absolute vocal powerhouse with a natural comedic presence. Noviello is charming and appropriately confident. Their vocal ability shines nicely in the emotional ballads. Mo Lovegrove, who plays Corrin’s friend Mouth-feel and other characters, is born to be a music theatre performer. Their performance is theatrical without losing authenticity. Playing assorted supporting roles, Adelaide-based creative Issy Coomber is a lovely addition to the cast and proves to be a versatile actor. 

The show succeeds at being highly entertaining while shedding light on important questions about identity and mental health: “Do you ever feel like you’re doing everything right, but you still hate yourself?” 

Gender dysphoria is commonly experienced by transgender and gender-diverse people. In the story, after Avis receives her gender-affirming surgery, she is confronted with the question “Are you real woman now?”

“I’m woman-like,” she says. This poses the controversial and unanswerable questions: Are trans women real women? And what is a real woman? 

A heartfelt beautiful moment is when Avis sees Corrin through an appreciative lens and realises she is perfect the way she is. Perhaps it is easier to love others than ourselves, easier to accept others than ourselves. 

Perhaps this is also why representation matters. Being able to see yourself in someone else can be powerful. This work can be life-changing for a young queer person. 

Music theatre lovers shall watch for this new production to take over the main stages in the coming years. 

A Transgender Woman on the Internet, Crying was presented at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Banquet Room on June 19.

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