Performer: Emma Frankland
Writer: Emma Frankland
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
‘The radical act is to exist’ Emma Frankland proclaims at the start of Rituals for Change, and although this announcement may sound like a tenet of existentialism, Frankland’s life as a trans woman is, indeed, a radical act. This intentionally messy but life-affirming show demonstrates how we can exist on our own terms.
In this multi-media show, Frankland creates a series of tableaux out of the DIY implements which crowd the space. She arranges clay pots, pours out cellars of salt onto the floor and fixes a bag of water to scaffolding equipment that she has erected and all, in some way, represent her desire for a change which she has constructed herself. These tableaux are the rituals of the title, and they are undertaken with appropriate solemnity.
In an extremely tense first few minutes, Frankland ties one hand to a log and wields an axe with the other, threatening to cut off one of her fingers. This potentially violent act is a metaphor for the change she is wrecking on her body for Frankland is a trans woman in the early stages of transition. Gender reassignment surgery will come in the future, but for now, Frankland battles with the crippling side effects of the hormones. She questions whether the surgery will make her the person she’s always wanted to be or whether she is already that person.
Many changes in our lives happen so slowly that it’s hard to see when in the journey A becomes B, or where here becomes there, and Frankland’s first few rituals try to pinpoint these elusive moments: When, for instance, does a mixture of water and earth become clay, and when does a bounced ball finish its travelling? Frankland wonders where her journey to become a woman began. Did it start in a doctor’s office or did it start earlier when she was a schoolboy or perhaps when she was born? Frankland can’t answer these questions with words and so, increasingly in this one-hour show, images take centre-stage as she uses the clay she has made to remodel her body. Some of these scenes are mesmerising.
Frankland promises that we will change too, but audience members are only passive spectators to her transformation. With more emphasis on our participation, there might be a real sense that we can engineer change too. If we were able to get our hands dirty like Pygmalion, we, too, could also fall in love with our creations.
Runs until 24 June 2017 | Image: David Monteith-Hodge