originally published Dec 16, 2010
Each story is introduced by a title intermingled with projected images, some of them horrific shots taken during surgery (a nose job is a gory sight to behold in close-up).
Arsenault speaks in a low, controlled, intimate voice, just above a whisper, with a soupcon of melodrama.
Every slinky move is calculated: fingernails raked over her transparent latex dress, arms raised, undulating in front of a portrait of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. Every verbal inflection is carefully controlled.
Silicone Diaries is a slick piece of theatre, built on a compelling narrative, an arresting stage presence and deft direction, by Brendan Healy (artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times since 2009).
In addition, this tall, slim, curvaceous artist who was chosen to be Mattel’s representative for Barbie, at the doll’s 50th birthday party during the 2009 fashion week in Toronto (watch for her next solo show, I Was Barbie), proves to be an excellent spokesperson for the trans-gender community.
From the moment she emerges out of the dry-ice smoke like a rock star, she’s charming, articulate, witty – “If you die during plastic surgery what do you say to God?” -and frank.
We learn, among other intimate details, that she still has a penis although she has had an “orchy” or orchiectomy to remove her testicles. Her discussions of bootleg silicone injections and their ramifications are not for the squeamish.
Referring to herself as a “shemale”, she talks freely about working in the sex trade within a virtual reality setting (chatting with several clients at a time from behind a blurred image of herself), as an erotic dancer, and as a prostitute -all to finance her expensive procedures. Her flirt-and-tell account of meeting rocker Tommy Lee is priceless.
While Arsenault remains willing to go to any length to perfect her image (even exercise), she does confess that the upkeep (two hours per day on makeup and hair alone) can be exhausting – thereby striking a chord with every woman in the audience. Sisters under the mascara, we are.
Vanity is certainly at play here, but Silicone Diaries is actually less self-indulgent than many one-person shows. Arsenault, a former columnist at Fab Magazine, takes her audience for a fascinating ride.