Upon entering Hope Mill Theatre the audience are greeted by a pianist, a chaise longue, an armchair and a table and chair with loads of crumpled up pieces of paper. It appears as if someone is suffering from writer’s block.

D’Eon is a new play from the Straight Acting Theatre Company, written by Edinburgh Fringe First Winner; Renny Krupinski. It is based on the life of Monsieur Chevalier D’Eon de Beaumont who was born male, yet lived the later part of his life as a female. The story is made even more complicated given the fact the majority of the play is set in the 18th Century and that D’Eon fought as a soldier.

Kaitlin Howard who plays D’Eon is on stage throughout the entire two and a half hour production. She is absolutely superb in the lead role and delivers lots of light and shade to the character - she made us feel sad when D’Eon was sad and happy when D’Eon was happy. Not only that but she had a lot of choreography and stage fighting to contend with too, which she pulled off with ease.

The Straight Acting Theatre Company are a relatively new company, only being formed in 2016. They endeavour to enrich the lives of audience by producing live theatre that focuses on the detail of life and the stories we all have to tell. They really deserve a pat on the back for bringing and untold and very important story to the public’s attention.

Other notable performances come from William J Holstead who captures the nervousness and intriguement of Thomas very well. The rest of the ensemble are also fantastically committed to their roles, which one may say is not for the faint-hearted.

Although D’Eon does address a serious issue, there are also a lot of laughs in this play. Many of these come from the ensemble with the use of pigs, snakes, prosthetic penises and some sexual innuendo.

There were times when D’Eon did become a tad hard to follow as there were so many characters. It was also a bit on the lengthy side, having said that it was still a very enjoyable watch and recommended.

It’s not very often you get to see a play that explores the theme of gender and equality. It’s interesting to know that the issues have stretched back as far as 200 years, yet sad that you fast forward to 2018 and things haven’t changed that much.

D’Eon runs at Hope Mill Theatre until 17th February. https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/deon/

Reviewer: Brian Madden

Reviewed: 13th February 2018

North West End Rating: ★★★★