Jessy Parker Humphrey’s new play, Binding, is an important exploration of the lives of young trans people – something that the stage has been lacking for a long time. As Jessy says in the trailer, it was key that trans actors were cast in the main roles, and it was great to see trans voices amplified not only in the world of the play but also in a very tangible way.
Livi Dunlop was excellent as the principal character Archie, holding the entire play together with hardly a moment offstage. Their perfect naturalism and rapport with the audience created an atmosphere in which we felt a real connection with this young person struggling for free expression, being taken on their emotional and physical journey and brought to understand the problems non-binary people deal with daily.
The intimacy of the BT studio placed us almost physically in Archie’s bedroom, while we were at the same time distant spectators, representing the internet audience of Archie’s YouTube channel, a motif which brought to light the stark contrast between private and public and the struggle for an outlet that trans people face. While we may see Caitlin Jenner on a magazine cover and celebrate that victory, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still thousands of young people alone in their bedrooms feeling completely misunderstood and isolated by their own families, the internet being their only release. Rivka Micklethwaite created a realistically domestic set which further emphasised the feeling of entrapment in a home life made of binaries and ‘norms’, and the constant proximity of Archie to their inescapably oppressive parents, played impressively by Will Spence and Laura O’Driscoll. The screen in the middle of the stage was a classy use of multimedia – nothing was overdone, and the chosen stylised elements worked well against a realistic backdrop.
Handing out Archie’s zines to the audience at the end was a really nice touch, during a moving monologue by Zoe Helding playing a trans vlogger – ‘Archie is still fighting,’ she says, as the gap between fiction and reality is truly closed. This was a piece that reached out to the audience in every way, buzzing with a sense of change and exciting new voices that need to be heard. Binding is a well-written, personal, important piece of theatre that I would definitely recommend seeing.