Jon Brittain’s play Rotterdam, currently showing at Theatre503 is a powerful and intriguing piece of theatre that explores what happens if you suddenly realise that you and your partner don’t want the same things anymore.

Set in a relatively modern flat, the story follows Alice (Alice McCarthy) and Fiona (Anna Martine) as they try and figure out who they want to be. The production starts as Alice prepares to pluck up the courage to tell her parents that she is gay. But before she can send the email, Fiona reveals that he has always identified more as a male and wants to start living as man named Adrian.

What follows is an intense and smartly constructed show that really delves into the issues surrounding transgender issues in a sensitive but bold and upfront way.

Rotterdam 5. Jessica Clark and Alice McCarthy. Photo- Piers Foley Photography
Jessica Clark and Alice McCarthy. Photo- Piers Foley Photography.

There is plenty of anger and bitterness that pulses through an energetic and poignant production that still has plenty of humour such as when Fiona urges her to just send the email without checking for any more mistakes: “I don’t want to open it with ‘Dear Mum and Dad, I’ve got something important to tell you. I’m a Lebanon.’ ” – moments like that ease the tension and bring a smile to the audience’s face.

As the show goes on the audience begins to see Alice and how she reacts to Adrian and how it makes her ask the question is she in fact straight? We see how she struggles to contain her feelings while trying to support Fiona/Adrian as he makes his transition and it is to the credit of alice McCarthy’s performance that this struggle is so clear and yet able to hold the audience’s sympathy despite the way in which she eventually chooses to deal with the situation.

Meanwhile, Anna Martine’s performance as Fiona and Adrian is powerful and commanding throughout but with a hint of vulnerability that is made clear towards the end of the show and really brings all the emotions of the situation to the surface effectively.

Both characters are more than amply supported by the calm and comforting presence of Josh (Ed Eales-White) who certainly provides some of the lighthearted moments in the production, yet able to offer sound advice when it is needed. Finally, Jessica Clark plays the wonderfully free and opinionated Lelani, who it has to be said, does become slightly irritating towards the end with her insensitive attitude but Clark plays her with a fantastic comic timing.

Rotterdam 1 Alice McCarthy and Anna Martine. Photo- Piers Foley Photography
Alice McCarthy and Anna Martine. Photo- Piers Foley Photography. 

Although the play ends on a what happens next cliffhanger, there is a positive and hopeful ending for both characters that is really fitting considering the journey that both characters have taken over the course of the last couple of hours.

It has to be said that in terms of length, there are a couple of scenes that could use cutting down slightly and the production over relies on lengthy pauses to make a point. By using this technique a lot, the whole purpose of it loses all meaning and it gets frustrating for the audience to wait for what happens next.

But overall, this is a powerful piece of drama that is pulsing with energy and emotion that grabs the audience’s attention from beginning to end.

Rotterdam is on at Theatre503 until the 21st November. For more information visit: https://theatre503.com/whats-on/rotterdam/ . 

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