FringeReview: Queer Heartache

Kit Yan
Publication date: 
September 17, 2016
Jo Tomalin

Kit Yan stands with his back to the audience for a few moments as the lights come up. A solitary presence in dressed in dark pants and shirt. A baseball hat is on the single chair centre stage. Then he turns and begins!

Kit tells his story through stylized slam poetry with intensity and honesty. Verbally the crafting of this fifty-minute piece is taut with rich imagery. Early on we learn about his frugal upbringing with his family’s extreme recycling – seemingly before recycling became mainstream! Kit’s examples of this are funny and relatable, so the audience is hooked and drawn in immediately.

In fact, his family is very important in Kit’s story because he begins to navigate the complex world of being transgender, queer and Asian American from Hawaii, when young and living at home. Throughout he mentions his family warmly – his father, mother or younger brother. Their reactions to Kit as he grows up figuring everything out are as fascinating as Kit’s own observations about them and their role in his life as he becomes independent and lives alone. It’s not all about family – other characters feature, such as his first sexual experiences, described with gutsy metaphors and raw details. This is Kit’s story and it focuses on his journey and how he is excited about new adventures, contemplates expectations and faces difficulties.

The show is well paced and comprises several separate but linked sections. The transitions between sections are very short and sometimes the end of one part may cleverly blend into the next by a simple turn of the head or body and change of dynamics. Lighting changes enhance the flow and atmosphere of the show and are used imaginatively for transitions and contribute to the build of the entire piece.

Kit goes deep, articulately throwing out rapid-fire names, synonyms and ultimately labels that float around society that try to define and confine gender, identity and sexuality. He does all this with vibrant and vivid physical storytelling through a mood range of confusion, humor, then exasperation and anger, to innocent practicality.

Physically and emotionally, Kit produces an astonishingly visceral level of performance with well-defined elegant gestures. His gestures complement the text, but they go a step further in that Kit creates art from the beginning to the end. He is a performance artist, a poet, an actor and he works his magic on the audience with an unpretentious sincerity and vulnerability, yet with a strong presence. Kit wears his heart on his sleeve – there are moments of pure poignancy that are heart wrenching – and we are the better for being there to witness, experience and learn from Kit’s riveting, thoughtful and very human story.

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