Bullish sets out to gore the conventional heart of the gender binary with cabaret charm, sincerity and fuzzy bovine heads.
A cast of five (trans, non-binary and gender fluid) performers nimbly navigate notions of gender identity using the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The latter is represented by narrator-protagonist Asterion (an alternative name for Minotaur – thank you, Wikipedia) a young person wandering the streets in a desultory fashion after a row with their mother.
Using the metaphor of physical labyrinths and confusing mazes of the mind, the work illuminates a sense of struggle with gendered ‘ishness’ or equivocation, the discomfort of being both one thing and another in a society that demands the straightforward and superficial, and insists upon the trappings of masculine power that the titular adjective conveys.
As macho bore Theseus, primed to “smash the prize”, mustachioed Adam Robertson makes a splash, combining the energies of both bully and bullshit-spouting motivational speaker. The others, relegated to backing vocals, are variously dismayed and enthusiastic.
Elsewhere, a sequence about DIY identity and the realities of insemination in which periods are likened to omelettes shows off Lucy Jane Parkinson’s comic verve. A performer of real warmth and directness, they’re excellent throughout.
Unfortunately the production’s earnest spoken-word style grates a little and overreaches for poetic significance, while certain one-liners fail to land properly. Though Bullish suffers from an occasionally baggy structure and patchy singing, it has the potential to be polished and pruned into something special.