FRINGE INTERVIEW Acclaimed playwright and performer Jo Clifford

Eve, performed by acclaimed playwright and performer Jo Clifford, offers audiences an authentic and intimate insight into the real life experiences of a trans person. The performance is a profound reflection on one trans woman’s life, from an oppressive 1950’s boyhood to the present day.

“It is remarkable that now in 2017 my show is one of two trans narratives being produced by Scotland’s National Theatre Company. People are now open to this in a way that would have perhaps been unthinkable even five years ago, “Clifford states. Following her turbulent life journey through a time of huge personal, social and political change, Eve celebrates the victories of survival and self-acutalisation.

It was discrimination, personally and professionally that first motivated Clifford to put pen to paper.”I suffered from a lot of prejudice throughout my life and career, and I wanted to do something about it. Telling my story in a way that enables people to empathise is the best weapon against prejudice that I know. I’ve been working on Eve for the last three-and-a-half years with my wonderful co-writer Chris Goode and my beautiful director Susan Worsfold, and it has happened to come at the same time as Cora and her team were working with Adam.”

Jo Clifford
Jo Clifford in Eve Photo: David Monteith

Adam, the companion piece to Eve tells the remarkable, true story of a young trans man and his journey to reconciliation; with himself, those closest to him, and the world as he knows it. From Egypt to Scotland, it charts Adam Kashmiry’s fight across borders and genders to find a place to call home. “We both have an amazing story to tell. Myself and Adam’s experiences are both incredibly different and yet they come from the same place. Both are plays about someone coming to terms with their past, which we al have to do.”

And unlike her previous play, Clifford is performing her own story, offering a truly vulnerable and engaging theatre experience; are the challenges and rewards of performing one’s own story onstage of equal measure?

“I do what I always do: take my experiences and put them on stage. What’s different about Eve is that I haven’t disguised these experiences and put them into the life stories of other characters. I speak with them and I accompany them with photos from my past. Together with my co-writer Chris I have shaped them and given them form just as we always do.”

Clifford has carved herself a profoundly successful career in telling trans stories; she was the first openly transgendered woman playwright to have had a play produced on London’s West End stage and earlier in 2017 was welcomed into the Saltire Society’s ‘Outstanding Women of Scotland’ community. Transitioning later in life, Jo has seen the fight for transgender rights span over decades, witnessing the ebbs and flows of equality her community has experienced. “There has been a gradual move to being able to tell trans stories openly and honestly in recent years, from the efforts of activists like myself and my colleagues. The fact that we exist at all s also a part of a deep sea change that is occurring all over the world.

However, we trans people still face so much prejudice when it comes to employment. Scotland is one of the best places in the world to be queer, but even in the performing arts, in the mainstream, things are still very tough. “Trailblazers like Clifford and Kashmiry, baring all to highlight diverse trans stories, have never been more important.

It is in telling this broad range of stories, Clifford contends, that true equality can begin to be achieved;”Our stories need to be told, and told well, in every medium. Telling stories well changes things. I hope these shows enable CIS members of the audience to empathise with a trans person’s story. And I hope they allow trans members of the audience a chance to see ourselves respectfully and authentically portrayed on stage. There are precious few opportunities for this. I hope too that it reminds everyone in a positive and life-affirming way that we all need to discover our authentic selves in the end.”

With trans rights under threat globally, legendary playwright, performer, father and grandmother Jo Clifford tells a story both gentle and passionate, intimate and political, to remind us that the journey towards our real selves is one we all need to make, wherever it leads us. “These are plays about someone trying to see past what they were told as a child and reach a full understanding and acceptance of who they truly are. And we all have to do that too.”

You can purchase tickets for EVE which plays at the Traverse Theatre until the 27th August, here.

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