Review: The Poetry We Make

3 star rating
Highlights important issues and incorporates some entertaining moments, but doesn't really shed much new light on the wider impact of gender transition.
The Poetry We Make at Vault Festival

Image: Flugelman Productions

Theatre: The Vaults

Closes here: Sunday 11 February 2018

Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal

Edwina Strobl


Elena Voce - Elliott

Elijah W Harris - Robin

Mia Hall - Dolly Parton

Sam Thorpe-Spinks - Paul


Who do we fall in love with: a body, a soul, a gender?

When Elliott discovers her ex-boyfriend Robin has started to transition into a woman her world turns upside down.

With the help of her hero and spirit guide, Dolly Parton, she examines her memories of the man she loved - re-imagining what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be in love.


Nominated for the Brighton Fringe 2017 Beyond the Fringe Brighton Fringe award, Flugelman Productions presents Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal's touching new play about love, loss, Dolly Parton and understanding love beyond gender.

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Performance date: Friday 9 February 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

The sheer scope and immense number of shows at Vault Festival is, for want of a more novel expression, staggering.

With multiple venues and productions on offer right through each evening, the big question is what to see.

But that is part of the delight of this annual theatrical jamboree, since it offers productions that cover an enormous range of ideas and issues, many of which might otherwise pass us by unnoticed, remain hidden from view or fail to get the attention they deserve.

The Poetry We Make is one such show - a short play with music which examines the impact when a man decides to transform and become a woman.

"Decides" might not be the right expression here because it's not so much as a decision as a compulsion or inner drive - something inside a person urging them to be different.

So, maybe that's not a choice as such, but merely allowing oneself to be what one feels that one ought to be.

It's not easy to describe and it's just as difficult to completely understand if you've never experienced being 'trapped' in the wrong gender.

I'm guessing because I've never experienced that - and many others will be similarly perplexed by the internal motivations and emotional turmoil someone is experiencing in these, often heartwrenching situations.

That is pretty-much the position of Elena Voce's Elliott when her boyfriend, Robin (Elijah W Harris) starts to make the transition to being a woman.

And it's Elliott's struggle to come to terms with Robin's change of gender that is the focus of Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal's interesting play.

The aim is that, through Elliott's experience, we (the audience) can begin to appreciate some of the issues involved and impact on others when people change gender.

In examining Robin's transformation, Elliott relies on the (imagined) assistance of singer Dolly Parton, composer of over 3,000 songs and instantly recognisable thanks to her shock of blonde hair among other notable characteristics.

Along the way, we hear snippets of Ms Parton's work commendably sung by Mia Hall who is shoe-horned into some incredibly tight jeans and sports a mass of hair most of us will recognise as topping the curvaceous frame of the famous country singer.

It's Ms Hall who provides the commonsensical, perhaps homespun philosophising in reply to Elliott's increasingly frantic desire to know why her boyfriend has become different.

Elliott's problem, at least in part, is that she sees Robin's transformation as a betrayal and Ms Voce's performance moves ably into top gear as her anger and resentment build.

That culminates in a rather contrived spotlit interrogation of Robin by Elliott, but the device fails to make much headway in wrapping-up the issues satisfactorily or providing further illumination over and above what had gone before.

And the performances in general needed tighter direction to make them entirely convincing and wholly engaging, with Robin's character presenting as rather bland and feeble given the monumental change he is enduring.

Though this play highlights important issues and incorporates some entertaining moments, it doesn't really shed much new light on the wider impact of gender transition.

ActDrop listing for The Vaults
Our show listing for The Poetry We Make
Read our reviews' policy

Buy tickets from ActDrop for ...

Buy tickets for Totem from Cirque Du Soleil