Tori Bullard’s New Play THE SHIFT Seeks to Normalise Trans Stories in Theatre

My second Fringe interviewee is Tori Bullard, a queer, non-binary performing artist whose play The Shift premieres at Sydney Fringe Festival this month. I hopped on zoom to chat to Tori about creating work for the queer community and normalising trans characters.

Please note, this interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

In one sentence, what is your show about?

My show is about coming to terms with who you are, within the queer community, and particularly coming to terms with being trans.

Tell me about the premise of your play.

It’s set in a movie cinema, and our main characters are Jaime and August who are on their weekly date night. And August, who is played by the amazing Zach Aleksander, has this really overwhelming sense of “I need to tell Jaime that I don’t feel like I belong in my own body” and decides to come out to Jaime whilst they’re on this date.

So, they’re in a place where they really shouldn’t be having this conversation, and August decides to come out, and then it’s about the journey for both of them, as well as for the other people in the cinema.

Why should people come see your show?

I think that it’s a really important story. It is very heavily based on my own experience. The whole reason that I decided to share the story was it’s showing a side of the queer community, the neuro-divergent community, the trans community that I feel like is not often shown, in a theatrical space or in media.

So, I think it’s a really important story to learn and understand what it’s like to come out as trans. The play does go into August’s thoughts, before and after coming out, and what that is like for them.

In what ways do you think it’s different from other like existing representation of trans characters in film or in theatre?

I think it normalises it. It doesn’t caricature it, and it doesn’t make it this big, crazy glamorous transition. This is a normal person realising that they’re not being who they actually are.

Who is the ideal audience for your show?

It’s definitely directed at a young, queer audience. It is definitely a queer story. But I hope that people outside of the queer community can connect with the story.

I hope it brings an understanding to those outside of the queer community, as to what it’s like for people to go through this.

How has your personal experience of being a queer non-binary artist impacted the play, and how you’ve written the play?

For so long growing up, I never saw myself represented on stage, and now having the opportunity to not only represent myself on stage, but to represent my partner who is trans, has really made the world of difference.

It’s given me so much of a greater understanding of why we write and why we create.

I think it’s had a really great impact on my conversations with the cast and creative team, 95% of whom are queer. We’ve had these phenomenal, open conversations with another about representation and why it is so important.

Is this the first time that this show’s been performed?

Yes, this is the premiere of The Shift.

Exciting! And are there any plans to perform it again after this?

It’s a show I would really love to have a continuous life after fringe. It’s so dependent on how fringe goes and what the audience feels. But, based off of my cast and my fantastic creative team, I think it’s a show that I would really love to continue on and give it a second life after Fringe.

I’ve learned since starting writing, and doing, this show that my script is never going to be finished. There’s always going to be room for growth and change, and so I’d be really interested to see where we can take it after this.

The Shift is writen by Tori Bullard and produced by Andy Freeborn. It will play at Limitless 107 Redfern Thursday 15th & Saturday the 17th at 6:30pm as part of Sydney Fringe Festival 2022. Tickets can be bought here.

Interview conducted and edited by Jo Bradley


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