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  • Theatre, Drama
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
No ID, Royal Court, 2023
Photo: Marc Brenner

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Tatenda Shamiso’s brave, joyous autobiographical show about his life as a Black transgender immigrant

What a gift of a show this is, wrapped up in sincerity, candour and light. Written and performed by Tatenda Shamiso, the autobiographical ‘No ID’ unravels the difficulty of living in Britain as a Black, transgender immigrant. But though there are points of wrenching internal hardship and endless contests with the UK healthcare and governmental systems, the show is ultimately a miraculous jewel of hope.

Shamiso traces from his childhood, through teenage angst, transition, up until the present day. Beginning with calls to a fictional hotline about the logistics of name change, the play expands to affectionately pay homage to Shamiso’s past self while still celebrating his transitioned identity. Set in what looks like the solitude of his living room, he opens up slowly, piece by piece, the whole time talking to us as if we are his old friends. 

And how joyful it is to be let into his existence. First comes the collage of old photographs, accompanied by voice recordings of his friends’ memories about the kind of person he once was. ‘Thandie played Annie before it was cool for little Black girls to play Annie’ one says. She was more focused on Kristen Stewart than fighting over Edward and Jacob during her ‘Twilight’ phase, adds another. ‘Everyone wanted to be friends with her,’ and you can see why - she sounds magic. But, ‘it was hard to keep up with her,’ Shamiso admits. 

Though initially billed as a monologue, ‘No ID’ grows into an impassioned duet between Shamiso and his past self. ‘Trans people don’t often get a chance to talk about this bit. Where you see your old self in the person you become,’ he says gently. But, here, Shamiso bleeds the connections, movements and differences within him with clarity. ‘I’, ‘she’ and  ‘we’ are all used interchangeably. Shamiso regularly thanks Thandie for shaping the person he now is.

But, most infectious of all is the music. In much lower tones, Shamiso sings along with recordings he made over the duration of his transition. In unison and harmony, they sing starkly about the horror of bleeding and the weight of having a body that doesn’t feel like home. In his lyrics, the dysphoria Shamiso was feeling is plaited deep.

It makes you angry too. The long journey to Shamiso’s transition required him to jump through hoops, tick boxes he didn’t believe in and fill out endless paperwork. The realisation of this is a messy stage designed by Claudia Casino. By the end, boxes are upturned, letters of diagnosis are stretched across the floor, and in the middle is Shamiso, resilient and managing to wade through.

It is confessional, remarkably exposing but always natural and told with wit. Already this play – directed by Sean Ting-Hsuan Wang – has gone on quite a journey, with its first performance at the Peckham Fringe last year. But there is much to be learnt from this quiet unpicking of trans truth. Resolutely honest and brilliant, this is a lionhearted revelation in dramatic form.

Written by
Anya Ryan


£12-£25. Runs 1hr
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