NT Connections 2024 role is a brilliant thing to happen to me in terms of identity and being trans

The Workshop's Theatre Company is rehearsing to stage Your Name is Dead about trans youth M as part of NT Connections 2024

Trans theatre company member AB says landing a role in our National Theatre Connections play Your Name is Dead has helped them validate their whole identity. 

Written by Elgan Rhys in collaboration with Leo Drayton, it follows M over the course of a day as he navigates shifting relationships and the challenges and joys of being young and trans.

Rhys’ work across theatre, TV and literature seeks to empower young people, particularly everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. Our three theatre company members will stage the play here on 17 April and at The Garage in Norwich on 28 April.

AB says: “I see M as the microcosm of the whole trans experience. From the weird questions from classmates to the acceptance of loved ones. I’d say M really represents what it’s really like.

“They’re like a mirror version of me. Whenever I think about his character, I go by the basis of ‘okay, what am I going through and how am I showing that in this performance?’.”

It’s a difficult and frightening time for the trans community. But AB wasn’t worried about telling the story. Quite the opposite.

They say: “If I was apprehensive about this kind of stuff I don’t know if I would’ve been able to come out as trans at all. I don’t think I’ve ever doubted this role. Getting it is such a brilliant thing that’s happened to me in terms of identity and general transness.

“This production has been so useful for validating my whole identity. It’s rare to come across such well written roles for transmasculines. So, it’s cathartic to see myself fully in such a role.

“I think diverse theatre like this is the best way for theatre to develop in this current day. Going forward I really want to see more trans characters shown in theatre, alongside everyone who seeks representation.”

Your Name is Dead is being directed by Dan, our Participation Programme manager and a performing arts tutor.

He says there have been many stories in pop culture that have done a great job of showcasing diverse stories from the LGBTQ+ community. But they haven’t always had diverse voices behind them.

“This hasn’t been great in terms of authentic representation and people being able to see themselves, but also these stories giving an accurate representation of experiences.

“Having someone from the trans community involved has been an important factor from the start. When attending the directors’ weekend at the National Theatre and getting to meet the writers they were very focused on ensuring every effort was met for companies to cast authentically – and if unable to do so that appropriate adjustments were made.

“This was a challenge as we didn’t have a large company to cast from so, I was very lucky that we were able to cast the main transmasculine character authentically. We also kindly had a trans member of staff come to talk to us about their experiences which was very enriching.”

Dan has always strived to tell stories that allow people to discover something new and learn more about themselves. As someone who tries to remain very aware of other communities, even he’s found this production eye-opening and thought provoking.

He says: “I believe we should be open about talking about other communities and experiences, especially from a young age. It’s important to make us more accepting as a community.

“To have this experience to build a safe space for disclosure and discussion from all our experiences, but especially that of our trans participants has been invaluable.

“I hope Your Name is Dead will act as an antidote to the current trans panic in the media and allow people to see and understand that the queer community is just people who have relationships and emotions like everyone else.

“That life is strange and uncertain for lots of young people, especially when they are not understood by society. I also hope people remember to be kind, patient and understanding.”

AB’s fellow castmates AJ and JB are enjoying the process too.

AJ says: “I’ve found [working on the play] good. I’m really enjoying rehearsals. I love my character; she’s really complicated and feels a lot of emotions. I hope audiences will enjoy our performance and will understand that it doesn’t matter who you are. What matters is that you are happy and people around you accept you for who you are. We’re all equal and have the same rights.”

JB adds: “I believe I can play my character well due to me being able to empathize and understand the dad’s problems. [Diversity in theatre has been] good but not [always] done in the right way.”

Each year, NT Connections sees the National Theatre commission new plays for young people across the country to perform, bringing together some of the UK’s most exciting writers with the theatre-makers of tomorrow.

Dan says: “I’m very happy to be directing Connections again at The Workshop. It has long been a festival close to my heart. My first directing role was on an old Connections script, and I’ve delivered this festival with previous companies I’ve worked with.

“We have our ongoing theatre classes for all ages where you can learn drama skills and create original performances each term. And we’ve some new classes for September with some very exciting performance opportunities.

“But this is our first in-house performance here post Covid so I’m very excited. The Workshop has been such a vibrant hub of creativity, and I’m keen to show that off to the public. The young people have such ability and enthusiasm, it deserves to be shared with a wider audience.”

Visit our What’s On section to book your tickets for Your Name is Dead at The Workshop or the What’s On section of The Garage’s website to see it in Norwich.

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