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Stage Whispers review of As One

Suzanne Sandow

Monday 27 January 2020

AS ONE is a beguiling, absorbingly unique contemporary opera experience.  The music is sublimely hypnotic and the singing exquisite.

It portrays an intense, very personal and individual reassignment of gender, from puberty to young adulthood, as a driven, relentless yet imperative journey.  And this is a passage that brings about a deeply satisfactory conclusion.

Opening with filmic imagery of flowing water projected on the western wall of fortyfivedownstairs, the whole is accompanied by projections.  These are often of nature, but also hauntingly of a large old house – a somewhat traditional family home.  They are the insightful works of film maker and co-librettist Kimberly Reed, who is her-self transgender.

This production certainly conveys the intensity of this idiosyncratic personal experience. It seems to be a solitary journey.

Incorporated is a shocking interim about real life individuals who were bashed and murdered with the inference that these individuals were attacked because of simplistic ‘redneck’ attitudes to conventional conservative gender binaries. This is indeed a disturbing disruptive message.

Throughout I was reminded of the balancing of Animus and Anima that is often at the heart of myths and fairytales.

Although the male and female identities of Hannah never have a duologue or sing directly to each other, they appear to support each other through their physical proximity and the attention they pay to each other. As the young 12-year-old boy takes pleasure in the overtly feminine, the female Hannah finds delight in his experience of the sensuality of wearing a silk shirt. And as Hannah becomes an integrated female, Joshua Erdelyi-Gotz (Hannah Before) stands behind her, not so much as the past, but, as a supportive other.

I chose to see this because I had the impression that Gertrude Opera is a very interesting company and I wasn’t disappointed.

Perfectly programmed for Midsumma – rich, insightful, emotive and well worth catching.

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