Re:Construct, at RISER, is a celebration of self in trans-it. A review

Geoffrey Simon Brown and Émanuel Dubbeldam in Re:Construct, RISER 2022. Photo by Brianne Jang

By Liz Nicholls,

“Welcome!” declare the beaming go-for-the-gusto duo who greet us in Re:Construct. “You are SO SO SO … valid.”

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Valid! Hurray! Unless, of course, we’re not. Ah, there’s the rub: All good! Relax! “Do whatever it takes!” — unless we make other people “uncomfortable.” 

“There are no wrong answers … but if you do it wrong….” That’s the crux of Even Gilchrist’s clever and insightful new play, premiering as part of RISER Edmonton 2022. Re:Construct is a playful, theatrical, very personal de:construction (a much-too sombre word for the fun of being in the audience) of gender — and on the notions of perfection that underpin it. To be trans in a world of gender orthodoxies is to be undermined  by doubts and un-validating signals.

In the conception of Gilchrist, a queer trans writer/designer with a witty purchase on theatricality, we’re at a celebration of Self. There’s  even a cake and party hats. Émanuel Dubbeldam and Geoffrey Simon Brown are a trans man and his idealized cis alter-ego, an endearingly nerdy study in physical contrast (the one compact, the other tall and leggy). They speak in unison, a jaunty two-person chorus of upbeat affirmative solidarity — until their voices separate under the pressure of perfectibility. 

I don’t want to spoil your fun, so I’ll be vague. Except to say that the pair invite the audience to join in thinking about body images, and the actors are delightful and funny.  

Geoffrey Simon Brown and Émanuel Dubbeldam in Re:Construct, RISER 2022. Photo by Brianne Jang

In its high-spirited way, Re:Construct is the chronicle, a funny and poignant theatrical diary, of a trans man reviewing his beleaguered past self, and wanting to embrace that youthful quester. He’s still shaken by the trauma of being outed on a rugby field (“I begged for death”). Shame and lovelessness are overwhelming: mere survival seems the only reasonable goal and invisibility the only viable option. 

So he disappears, even to his own view. “I don’t feel real,” he tells us, under a barrage of images of perfect male pulchritude (the projection and set design is by Gilchrist). Whittyn Jason’s lighting, a story in itself, flickers between heightened brightness and the romantically celebratory, and every once in a while catches a face, mid-second thought, in silhouette.

It’s when the characters share the memory of a magical moment of sheer, exhilarating romance under the stars, that a life-giving sense of possibility glimmers. “This feeling is possible? I am possible? I could carve myself anew?”

Émanuel Dubbeldam and Geoffrey Simon Brown in Re:Construct, RISER 2022. Photo by Brianne Jang

As “a love letter to my younger self,” Re:Construct is powered by a puckish, surprisingly sturdy sense of absurdity that gives Sarah J Culkin’s production its unusual funny/sad tone and lightness of touch. Hoping for instructions on “how to become the voice inside my head,” our protagonist Googles authenticity and “better ways to be more real.” Understanding the galaxy doesn’t mean connecting the dots in a clichéd way and arriving at the Big Dipper; it means “tilting your perspective” until a powerful new image emerges.

It’s a good day, the pair tells us. The best of all possible days since, against all the odds,  “today I might start to believe in my own invention.” 

Heartbreaking and hopeful, an unexpected show you shouldn’t miss. 


RISER Edmonton 2022  


Written by: Even Gilchrist

Directed by: Sarah J Culkin

Starring: Geoffrey Simon Brown and Émanuel Dubbeldam

Where: Backstage Theatre, ATB Financial Arts Barn, 10330 84 Ave.

Running: through Sunday




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