Writer and Director: Ian Dixon Potter
The return of live theatre hasn’t deterred Ian Dixon Potter from continuing to adapt his plays for the digital format, and there are now over 15 monologues available to screen. A Strange Romance was possibly the best of the bunch. The tale of a relationship between a cis gender man and the androgynous Blue was a perfect blend of narrative and identity politics. However, there was one thing missing: Blue. Dixon Potter’s newest monologue corrects that absence.
A Strange Romance was seen through the eyes of Peter, a philosophical mechanic who meets non-binary Blue in a coffee shop. Sharing a love of sci-fi, the two begin to date, though Peter remains unsure whether Blue is a boy or a girl. Thomas Everatt’s measured performance ensured that A Strange Romance did not become a gender reveal party.
Inside Blue tells the story from Blue’s point of view, and Beata Taczalska is excellent as the titular speaker recounting their first days with Peter. While it is fascinating hearing from the other lover in the strange romance, Blue does not really remember the events differently and so while it may be engrossing for those who have not seen the first monologue, the story is familiar to those who have. Both monologues are based on Dixon Potter’s play Boy Stroke Girl, and perhaps the two-hander is a more satisfying way to show both sides of the story as Inside Blue doesn’t really tell us anything that Peter hasn’t already discussed in A Strange Romance.
Blue and Peter start dating: they go to watch a film at the BFI, see art shows In East End galleries and walk the canal from Camden to Limehouse. Blue manages to swerve and sidestep the times that Peter tries to discover Blue’s gender. Nevertheless, the two begin to fall in love and Blue believes that Peter can see Blue’s inner beauty. This beauty has not been constructed by society’s blind attachment to binaries.
Like many of Dixon Potter’s plays, Inside Blue works best when story is privileged. It’s interesting to hear how Peter’s friends and family react the first time he introduces them to Blue. It’s also good to hear about the time when Blue first decided to present themselves as androgynous, but these biographical details are relatively scarce. What doesn’t work so well is the way the politics are discussed, and they often stand outside the story, making Blue into a mouthpiece for Dixon Potter’s own views.
Of course, Dixon Potter’s politics are sensibly enlightened but sometimes them come across as heavy-handed and a little broad. For instance, while there is definitely transphobia within the gay community, some gay people stand with trans people as allies. And do self-proclaimed feminists also call themselves cultural relativists? Without a storyline to further illuminate these political stances, Blue’s views appear out of context and the relationship with Peter fades away too far.
Much of this soapboxing is tempered by Taczalska’s performance and Blue is presented as fiercely confident as only the young can be. A streak of wry humour prevents Blue from being too pious and Taczalska gives them the slightest touch of vulnerability to ensure that Blue is a likeable character. But because it covers much the same ground, Inside Blue should be seen as an alternative to A Strange Romance rather than its companion piece.