Untitled 2009 @ Tron, 2nd November, Dir. David Wood, Written by Nelly Kelly
“If you feel you’ve been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it.” In July 2009, a bible was placed in the GoMA alongside this message. Visitors to the gallery, especially those from the LGBTQ+ community, were encouraged to write on the bible, to physically reclaim space within a book that can often be used to justify bigotry and violence towards them. The act was viewed as sacrilegious and against ‘Christian values’, and both the church and GoMA were heavily criticised for the piece.
Ten years on, Nelly Kelly wrote ‘Untitled 2009’, using the words from that bible and the criticism surrounding it, and it was performed by a collective of six talented trans performers as part of the tenth anniversary celebration of Jo Clifford’s iconic performance piece, ‘The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven’. The play explored the differences (and many similarities) between queer life in Scotland ten years ago and now, as well as a queer relationship with Christianity and how we can make all spaces inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community.
The piece began with all of the actors coming in a procession onto the stage, shrouded in trans and nonbinary flags, to a soundtrack of various critics talking about the original 2009 bible. It was a powerful beginning – a direct act of queer resistance and defiance and I knew then that I was going to enjoy this show. The piece fluctuated from the actors having discussions about religion and queerness to reading the words of the bible and the bible’s critics. It finished on a dismantling of a box encasing the bible, and the actors (and many audience members) taking part in a dance party on top of the table to Soft Cell and George Michael.
As a whole, the show was very relaxed – the set was simply a long table covered in writing from the actors, with the bible in the centre. The actors wore clothes that they felt most comfortable and powerful in and they held their scripts in their hands; it felt at times as if you were just listening in to a very queer dinner party, as opposed to a revolutionary piece of theatre, which I suppose is why it was so powerful – you could tell the actors truly felt comfortable together and believed in the performance and its message.
As a trans person in a constant battle with my religious identity, this show felt like home. But it wasn’t just for queers like me (who had spent the previous day creating incredibly gay poetry from a bible) – it truly felt like a show for everyone. It covered politics, love, gender, family and had me swinging from deep thought to laughing so much I thought I was going to wee. It was such an important piece of theatre in terms of the discussions it evoked and getting to see a show consisting solely of trans people was very empowering and emotional. We’ve still got a while to go before queer rights are in parity with the rights of our heterosexual and cisgender counterparts, but in the meantime, support queer people and definitely see Untitled 2009 if you get the chance.
[Chris Timmins – he/him – @_plantbot]
[Photo credit: outspokenarts.org]