There’s a refrain in ‘And the Rest of Me Floats’: the intrusive questions about gender, sex and body parts that trans, non-binary and queer people are endlessly, leeringly, subjected to. But what shines through is power, along with defiance and humour. The seven performers whose lives and experiences inform the mosaic-like structure of this show are, frankly, just fucking brilliant.
Outbox Theatre’s production, conceived and directed by Ben Buratta, arrives at the Bush Theatre at the latest stage of a devising process that began in 2017, with Michelle Tiwo joining the performers for its current incarnation.
There’s definitely hardship here, in painful snatches of memories or replayed encounters. The barrage of voices (enacted by the performers) talking about, down to or in judgement of them is almost crippling. There’s a depressingly overwhelming sense of a society determined to victimise, categorise or demonise.
However, ‘And the Rest of Me Floats’ also rejects that. From the impossibly cool Josh-Susan Enright’s monologue about dancing in a club to Elijah W Harris punning about ‘transitions’ in play rehearsals to Tiwo’s account of their childhood, not one person is fodder for headlines. This is theatre that playfully, determinedly resists simplification.
The piece loops in and out of time and circumstance. It deliberately shakes up the idea of one story, one narrative – offering up a constellation of experiences at different ages. As they take their turn in the spotlight, solo or together, the cast rifle through huge clothes racks at either side of the stage.
There’s vulnerability on display here, and doubt, but as the performers change outfits or play instruments, there’s also the bubbling joy of potential – of breaking out and being able to pursue who you are and want to be. Jess Bernberg’s gorgeous lighting design silhouettes the cast like the rock stars they are.
There’s a strong ’80s New York City queer club vibe to aspects of Buratta’s direction. A whole history of community surges electrically through the production’s 75 minutes as it never pauses in one mood for long. ‘And the Rest of Me Floats’ sticks up two fingers at the bigots while blowing a kiss. By the end, you’ll want to get up there too.