Note: This review is from the 2019 Fringe

Emma Frankland presents Hearty, the fifth and final part of a series of performance works that look at the politics of trans identity and gender transition. The project comes under the banner None of Us is Yet a Robot and also includes a recently published book, a podcast and the previous performance and short film Rituals For Change.

Emma enters the stage in a flustered and nervous manner. She throws a box down towards the middle of the stage and gaze at it with a deeply intense and forceful stare. Emma is out of breath and wearing metallic wings on her back. These are not angelic wings though – where feathers should be, there are sharp knives. The performer is also wearing a white t-shirt that has the statement ‘Lop Your Dick Off’ written on it in bold letters (possibly a reference to the words of feminist writer Germaine Greer). Emma means business and they are ready for action.

The stage presents a dystopian landscape with large wooden planks as a backdrop and industrial lights randomly lying on the floor. The style evokes Mad Max and is sparse, haphazard and intimidating. Images of television static are projected on the back wall and this adds to the theme of displacement and conflict. The performance draws on spoken word and storytelling, whilst also being very physical. Emma’s words are heightened by making use of the stage and props to express the tension and violence that they experience. The title Hearty is a reference to HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy – a treatment to relieve symptoms of the menopause) and the show presents a heartfelt and passionate take on gender transition. It is a beautifully told story that does not shy away from trauma and heartache, as well as showing optimism.

Hearty paints a picture of change, hope and resilience and Emma’s enthusiasm and ability to connect with an audience is what makes the performance so powerful and deeply. Hearty is a triumphant and expressive way to conclude the None of Us is Yet a Robot series of performances.