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INTERVIEW | Kate O’Donnell talks ‘You’ve Changed’

Queer performer, activist, campaigner and theatre artist Kate O’Donnell is bringing her critically acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe show You’ve Changed to the Lowry this November.

It has been fourteen years since Kate transitioned and her witty one-woman show is not only about how she has transitioned, but how the conceptions of gender have transitioned in society. “The inspiration for the show was to take a look back at the last 14 years since I transitioned,” Kate said. “To see what’s changed and to see if you’ve changed. It was what I call the trans dark ages back then.”

Kate has set the show in the 1930s, she explained: “Back in 2003 when I transitioned, it may as well have been the 30s as no one had a clue.” Using music, costume and dance from that period Kate transitions from Fred to Ginger during the show. “This show has been quite challenging creatively as I decided to write some songs for it and to also include dance so I have really pushed myself,” Kate said. “I also have a dancer in the show. As the show is autobiographical it’s always interesting to find ways to tell a personal story, a trans story – and make it appealing to lots of people. I like that challenge.”

Kate is known nationally for her campaigning and the fact that she uses her voice and platform to spark change. “We still don’t have that many trans voices writing and performing their own stories so that’s why this show is so important,” she said. “We can be so easily misrepresented and fall into a tragic cliché if we are not part of the creative process, making work. Theatre offers a live experience; you are in the room with a trans person and for some that’s the first time they will have ever met a trans person.”

First coming out as a gay man, then a drag queen and finally a transgender woman, Kate always used theatre to explore her identity. She wants to use this piece of theatre to show audiences that gender has moved on and that they need to get on board with the revolution. “I want them to be interested and feel it is their job as much as trans people to keep pushing society forward,” Kate explained.

Setting up the first trans-led theatre company in England to be backed by the Arts Council, Kate set up the company to produce work and educational programmes about transgender people, and to enhance accessibility in the arts for transgender people. “I wanted to create a trans-led, trans-positive and trans-creative company to raise positive visibility of trans people. There is still plenty of negativity out there,” she said. “I hope to give a platform to trans creatives – for them to be part of this discussion for trans issues and to make some good art.”

Although we have come far when it comes to equality, there is still so much further to go. “Change comes in many shapes and sizes,” Kate explained.  “I feel very different about being trans today, I don’t hide it anymore, I am actually proud to be trans. People are getting it though and trans people are feeling more confident and able to face the music. It’s not easy but it’s possible to be who you are these days.”

Through song, dance and everything in-between, Kate is shining a light on the ins and outs of transitioning and challenging the idea that genitals equal gender.

Kate’s production of You’ve Changed opens at the Lowry on November 10th and tickets and information can be found here.

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