Trans actress quits West End show after lead trans role given to a cisgender actor

Yesterday it was announced that the World Premiere of a new Irish musical BREAKFAST ON PLUTO will come to the UK at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, September 3 – 26 and then Londons Donmar Warehouse, October 2 – November 21. The musical is based on the 2005 film of the same name.

Actor Fra Fee (Translations – National Theatre, The Ferryman – Royal Court Theatre, West End and Broadway, and the film version of Les Misérables)) has been cast in the lead role of Partick/Pussy, a boy who comes out as transgender in the rural Irish border town of Tyreelin at the height of  small-town bigotry, religious repression and the IRA.

The Donmar Warehouse tweeted the show announcement saying “we are thrilled that the world premiere of BREAKFAST ON PLUTO will land on our stage this autumn.”

However, Transgender actress Kate O’Donnell replied to the tweet saying “while @DonmarWarehouse are thrilled the trans community less thrilled once again we are left out of the telling of a trans story. I was cast to play Pussy’s adopted Mother but had to decline due to a cis man being cast to play her.”

In a statement online, Producers of the show Landmark Productions, Galway International Arts Festival, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the Donmar Warehouse said:

“The Breakfast on Pluto creative team conducted a wide search for the lead. In addition to holding auditions in London, we reached out to the Irish transgender community through multiple channels, and auditioned a number of performers who identified as transgender for the role of Patrick/Pussy Braden.

We acknowledge that we all need to do more to support the trans community and the development of trans artists and we are looking to amplify and celebrate trans voices in other ways as part of the production.

We have been keen to ensure that trans voices have been central to the development of this new musical. A key member of the core creative team is trans, and a leading trans actor, Rebecca Root, has been production consultant since last year; her brief includes advising on script as well as the casting process. A young trans theatre-maker has been offered a placement as assistant director, and we have commissioned Lloyd (Meadhbh) Houston to curate a wraparound programme for the performances in Galway and in Dublin.

Alongside Breakfast on Pluto, an actor showcase for trans performers in collaboration with Gendered Intelligence will be held at the Donmar Warehouse. We understand how many barriers there are to trans performers in this industry. We hope the showcase will provide an opportunity for directors and casting directors and trans performers to network, and to further diversify the sector.

The Donmar is sharing its space with Gendered Intelligence for a platform performance presenting the culmination of a research project in summer 2020, Adventures in Time & Gender, and it is working with them on further opportunities for support, of which more details will be known closer to the time of the production.

In addition to the above, Birmingham Repertory Theatre is currently in conversation with Midlands-based trans organisations with the aim of building on the work we’ve presented in the past and collaborating on future artistic programming. More details will be announced closer to the time of production.”

So what do you think of this news?

Do you think the lead role should have been given to a trans actor over a cisgender man? Do you think they should have tried harder to find a trans performer for the role or do you think at least they offered the role of the mother to a trans actress to balance out the casting?

Is it more important to cast performers who truly represent the characters identity in real life so that people see themselves represented correctly on stage?



Transgender – having a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their sex assigned at birth.

Cisgender – denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.