It’s about ‘transness’, they stress – transness embodiedLucy Carter with permission for Varsity

What is ATE about? Even after sitting down with writer-performers Beatrice Coulter and Lucy Carter, I’m not entirely sure – and that’s exactly what the pair want. Throughout our chat together, the two of them are light on concrete details – they’re both allusive and elusive, hinting at lots but committing nothing to the record.

This, I’ve no doubt, is partly for publicity reasons – the pair want to crank up the mystery and suspense to make the most of their one-night slot at the Playroom, pitched as a kind of out-there extravaganza. But from what (little) I do gather about the show, their evasiveness feeds into one of their creative goals. Beatrice is a fan of spontaneous theatre, she tells me; she wants to be able to roll off the audience’s ‘vibes’ on the night (no audience interaction, though, they’re quick to promise!). In this, ATE looks poised to be a unique kind of production: transient, inimitable. If the pair are betting on moulding the audience’s energy into the production, it makes sense as to why they’d want them to arrive as a blank slate – unprepared, and all the more malleable. What’s certain is that next Tuesday’s theatregoers can expect an unconventional experience; the pair don’t want this to be like an ordinary Cam theatre production.

“What’s certain is that next Tuesday’s theatregoers can expect an unconventional experience”

Which begs the question: are Beatrice and Lucy influenced by anything in particular in the dramatic scene here, or is ATE an answer to what the pair haven’t seen in Cambridge, particularly regarding the spotlight on trans themes and identity? They begrudge that they’re not particularly inspired either way (Beatrice doesn’t find much of Camdram stimulating, and concedes that a lot of the gimmicks of ‘out-there’ productions, like audience participation, are in fact, actually, quite safe). More than anything, the idea for ATE developed organically, springing out of conversations the pair have waged between themselves. Beatrice and Lucy’s friendship (unlike many people’s) has survived first year, and as the finalists close out their undergrad degrees, ATE marks their swansong to Cambridge theatre. Among many things, it’s a testament to their three years at Cambridge – hence, they tell me, they want to go out with a bang.

“Among many things, it’s a testament to their three years at Cambridge”

So spontaneous was their process that most of ATE was compiled in a single night, a culmination of thoughts and conversations between themselves. And this gives me the greatest insight into how the show will play out: as a string of monologues and dialogues from Carter and Coulter, playing characters who are both intrinsically themselves but also sculpted for the stage. When I press for more plot details, they remain tight-lipped. It’s about ‘transness’, they stress – transness embodied, that is, as opposed to its abstract treatment in the media. How fitting, given the current electoral climate, as both the Conservatives and Labour dominate the press by making political hacky sack out of trans rights quite literally as I write this. Among the few things that Beatrice and Lucy assure me of is that ATE will serve as an antidote to outer perceptions of transness – through the intimacy of theatre, they want to reel their audience into the lived trans experience.

“They want to reel their audience into the lived trans experience”

This is a bold claim, no? To want to induct theatregoers of all stripes into the complexities of transness within an hour? But they’re keen to make it work. “We want to put the audience in our shoes,” Beatrice outlines, so they can understand how transness is affected by the way society treats it. The show will no doubt touch on some harrowing themes, then. But equally, ATE looks set to zip through genres, from the poignant to the humorous (and even the sexually explicit), matching the pair’s ambition and creative frenzy with a bold pace and manifold focus.


Mountain View

Why you should go to the audition

If one things is certain, then, it’s that the audience is in for a wild ride. Oh yes, I’m assured. Lucy counts at least one major surprise – Beatrice three. Check the content warnings, they implore me (more than once), before coming to see the show. Those will be the only clue for what will unfold on Tuesday night. For everything else, you’ll have to buy a ticket to see what awaits.

‘ATE: The Art Tr*nny Experience’ will be showing at the Corpus Playroom on Tuesday 11th June, 9:30pm.