Trans representation in theatre is slowly but surely changing for the better
BY CHARLOTTE GRIMWADE
The full cast for Abigail Thorn’s play-writing debut, The Prince, has recently been announced. Abigail’s first play will premiere at Southwark Playhouse this September. As a production focused on exploring identity, the play’s majority trans cast will hopefully offer new and diverse perspectives.
Abigail’s fellow cast members include Tianna Arnold (they/them) as Lady Kate, Joni Ayton-Kent (she/her) as Sam, Mary Malone (she/her) as Jen, Che Walker (he/him) as Northumberland/King Henry IV, Corey Montague Sholay (he/him) as Prince Hal, Richard Rees (he/him) as Worcester and Tyler Luke Cunningham (he/him) as Douglas.
Joni Ayton-Kent and Mary Malone will play protagonists Sam and Jen, who find themselves trapped in Henry IV Part One and must attempt to find their way back to the real world. Abigail has described the play as being about “characters in a Shakespeare play who start to realise they are all stuck inside a performance. Some are in denial about their sexuality and gender, others are just trying to prepare the next generation for the struggles ahead.” Aside from referencing Henry IV Part One, The Prince will also engage with other works by Shakespeare, promising to be both accessible and fun.
The Prince’s premise makes its casting even more pertinent. Its majority trans cast not only highlights the ability to connect Shakespeare to contemporary voices and stories, but also the universal themes that can be found throughout his work. The play promises to engage with ideas ranging from the roles we play for others, lesbianism, parenthood, denial and sword fighting.
For actors like Tianna Arnold, Mary Malone, Joni Ayton-Kent, Tyler Luke Cunningham and Abigail Thorn herself, representation in the form of productions like The Prince is significant. Abigail publicly came out as transgender in January 2021 with the video, Identity: A Trans Coming Out Story, on her successful YouTube show, Philosophy Tube. The Prince continues to add to the dialogue she has encouraged about trans stories and experiences.
In a previous interview with DIVA Abigail explained how, despite an increase in trans characters, they’re “often written by cis writers, so sometimes there are opportunities for interesting story beats or character motivations that get missed.” Abigail’s principal role in the play’s conception, in addition to her casting as Hotspur, shows how trans representation in theatre is slowly but surely changing for the better. The announcement of a majority trans cast in what promises to be an exciting production only reflects this further.
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