Not everything of quality happening in Manchester at the moment is part of MIF, as The Greater Manchester Fringe Festival’s Transparency at 53two showed this week.  

At just over an hour long, this story of a young working class trans man is both written and performed by Jaden Adams, who grew up on a council estate in Oldham and was once a promising drama student at Manchester College. But Adams felt something just wasn’t right playing female roles so he convinced himself he needed a ‘proper’ job and dropped out, only to realise that he was a trans man.  

Adams’ lived experience of recognising that you’re trans at the age of 25 infuses Tranparency with an genuine sense of authenticity, one that never sacrifices dramatic flow, belly laughs and emotional resonance for the sake of preaching. As a result, the play is moving, funny and genuinely insightful.   

And while Adams’ own experience informs the drama, this isn’t a wholly autobiographical piece. He plays Jack, a young trans man, as well as the roles of three family members and a work colleague, two of whom are male and two female.  

“The characters are based on people I have met, but Transparency is not biographical,” he says. “Although there are some crossovers from my life experience, the story isn’t directly my story, but a kind of composite of trans experiences. But everything that Jack has to deal with in the show – the misgendering, the transphobic slurs, coming out at work in a very traditionally male environment, and constant intrusive questioning, that’s all my lived experience.”  

The story of Jack’s life unfolds as he prepares for the first meeting with his girlfriend’s parents. What is a daunting prospect for anyone becomes infused with greater dread as Jack recounts everything that could go wrong and, in doing so, becomes the other characters in the story, from Jack’s parents to pals at work. Each character adds to our understanding of Jack’s experience and also to his own, finally giving him the confidence to simply be who he is.  

In terms of the writing, this is an effective way to tell the story of Jack’s transition through different viewpoints – a mother lamenting the loss of her ‘perfect’ daughter and coming to terms with a son she never expected to have is particularly moving. But what surprises is Adams’ performances as he effortlessly transforms from one character to the next. It’s a really lovely piece of acting.  

At Manchester’s 53two before heading out on tour, Transparency was performed to a capacity audience who, at the end, were in their feet. If this is anything to go by, Jaden Adams is a man to watch. 

By Rob Martin 

Photos by Rebecca Lupton

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Transparency is playing at The Greater Manchester Fringe. For more information, click here.