; Fun! Fun! Vancouver!: The Silicone Diaries

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Silicone Diaries

Who was your Valentine last night? Mine was Nina Arsenault, star of The Silicone Diaries, which had its Western Canada premiere on Valentine's at The Cultch.

I hear that Unique Lives and Experiences will be coming to town again, but for a truly unique life and experience, you better get your ticket to The Silicone Diaries and fast!

Walking into the theatre, you are greeted with a moving image of a silicone implant on a screen, as smoke creeps into the room like an oncoming mist. On stage is a single chair, a table, and a bottle of water. Once the lights go out, emerging out of the darkness is a beautiful powerful woman named Nina - the perfect entrance to illustrate her own journey from awkward male to life-size Barbie doll.

Arsenault slithers onto the stage and for a full hour and 45 minutes, regales the audience with stories of her past lives - as a young boy captured by the beauty of department store mannequins, as a struggling porn star connecting with clients, and as a transitioning transsexual making her way to Mexico for countless surgeries. The stories are interspersed with film footage of her life, including scenes from the hospital during her operations which may make some audience members queasy if you can't handle that sort of thing.

In fishnets and PVC, Arsenault does seem to stumble a few times over her lines, but you try putting on heels and getting up in front of strangers to tell your life story! She powers through, however - again, the perfect parallel to her having overcome obstacles in her life. Her performance is honest and frank, powerful and moving, inspiring, and downright mesmerizing! The show brings up questions around beauty and how far one would go to achieve it vs being comfortable in one's own body. It also serves as a warning for those interested in plastic surgery and tells the dangers of black market silicone. Arsenault works from the outside in, chiseling her torso, her face, into a living work of art and in the end realizes there's still more work to be done - on the inside.

I can't begin to imagine what life would be like as a transgendered person. This is just one of many stories out there, and we are fortunate enough to have Nina around to tell it to us. The standing ovation at the end of the show was a testament to her life and her ability to share that story with all of us.

The Silicone Diaries plays at The Cultch until February 25.

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