Writer and Director: Ian Dixon Potter
Ian Dixon Potter’s series of monologues continues with this winning love story between a Cis man and a trans person, the latter of whom doesn’t want to be labelled as either male or female. What really comes across, in possibly Dixon Potter’s most ambitious tale so far, is that the relationship between Peter and Blue is, despite the title, not very strange at all.
A Strange Romance begins with a red herring as we meet Peter in blue overalls with his head under the bonnet of a car. But Peter is not a working-class mechanic; he’s middle-class with aspirations to be a motoring journalist. He’s also more woke than he gives himself credit for.
One day Peter is in a busy cafe reading the short stories of Philip K Dick, when a person, pleasingly androgynous, takes the seat next to him. They chat about Sci-Fi and the Vikings, and within a few minutes they decide to make a date to see the Director’s Cut of Blade Runner at the BFI. Peter doesn’t want to directly ask Blue if they are a man or a woman, and so asks other questions in the hope that Blue’s birth gender will be revealed. Blue deftly bats away each question.
Soon they are seeing each other a few times a week, and although they kiss they haven’t taken matters into the bedroom, and so Peter is still none the wiser about the gender that may be visible on Blue’s body. But as the weeks pass, under Blue’s tutelage, Peter begins to realise that gender is less important than the person inside the body.
Despite the complex politics behind trans issues, Dixon Potter’s writing is plain, and never becomes didactic. With moments of gentle humour the story is unexpected, and across its 40-minute running time, it’s never quite clear where it’s headed. However, there are a few problems with the narrative, and it seems a little unbelievable that Peter would want to introduce Blue to people he suspects hold transphobic views. Perhaps these scenes would have worked better if they had been accidental encounters rather than planned meetings.
As Peter, Tom Everatt is eager and bright-eyed in his storytelling, but it would have been interesting to see a darker side to complement Peter’s buoyant enthusiasm. At times, Peter just seems too good to be true. The story never sags, and Everatt, as he tinkers with old Jags and other classic cars, keeps up the pace, and it’s only at the end of the monologue that we glimpse other layers to Peter’s character.
Dixon Potter hopes to take five of these Tales of the Golden Age to the White Bear Theatre this autumn, and we can only hope that A Strange Romance is one of them. And lets hope, too, that one day romances such as these won’t be labelled strange at all.