Jon Brittain’s powerful but sensitively written play examines gender and sexuality as well as coming to terms with who you are.
Having last seen this when it was at Theatre503 last year, it is great to see Jon Brittain’s play making its West End debut this year.
This sensitively written portrait of a couple trying to find themselves, going through a whole range of emotions that are both raw and heartwarming to watch covers some huge topics regarding sexuality and gender that is a breath of fresh air on the London stage.
Rotterdam opens as Alice is preparing to send an email to her parents telling them that she is gay. But before she can send it to them, her partner Fiona confesses that he feels that he was born in the wrong body and wants to start living as a man called Adrian. From there the audience is taken on a journey filled with insecurity, judgement and struggles that is as compelling as it is humorous.
Donnacadh O’Briain’s production has a very intimate feel about it, through the basic and adaptable set designed by Ellan Parry and by keeping the production as straight forward as possible, allowing Jon Brittain’s play do the talking.
The performances of the cast are wonderfully emotional, switching from being caring and vulnerable to being selfish,hurt and angry at a split second. Alice McCarthy as Alice, reveals a character who has a lot of emotions to deal with and is uncertain how to deal with them as her actions with Lelani prove. McCarthy’s reactions to everything happening outside her control is well judged and believable that you can well understand her confusion as to her own identity.
Meanwhile, Anna Martine as Fiona/Adrian proves to be a courageous and straight talking individual, who particularly in the middle section when Lelani walks past him, considering him to be a man – Adrian is more concerned of ‘passing’ than his girlfriend’s feelings – which is the turning point for the couple. To watch this character grow in confidence and certainty is something that really stays with the audience after the performance is finished – as does the scene when Adrian attempts to turn back to being a woman: utterly heartbreaking.
Ed- Eales-White as Josh, adds a sense of balance to proceedings as well as a lot of the humour, lightening the moments of tension between Alice and Adrian. Jessica Clark as Lelani is another straight-talking character, having an attitude that each day is for living and for taking chances. She is a character that could be over-played in the wrong hands, but Clark really provides great support for McCarthy’s Alice as a friend and someone to talk to – even if she has her own motivations.
It is a story that is told with a lot of passion, but it has got the balance between informing the audience and being entertaining just right to keep the audience’s attention. Rotterdam is a play that shows the difficulty of living in a world of judgement and not feeling able to be yourself and to have the confidence to know what you want to be, which can be seen as the way Alice and Fiona blossom – even if it takes them in two different directions.
The pacing is great and there really is little to fault with the production, except in a minor complaint some of the scene changes were a bit elaborate and clumsy considering the length of some of the scenes.
However, this should not disrupt the audience’s enjoyment of a fantastically written piece of drama that will hopefully encourage other people to accept who they are and celebrate it – no matter what anyone else thinks. All of the characters offer a different perspective of one situation to create a well-balanced piece.
Rotterdam plays at the Trafalgar Studios until the 27th August. To book tickets visit: ATG Tickets , Discount Theatre.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk , Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk.