ROTTERDAM – Trafalgar Studios 2, London.
Both funny and heartbreaking in equal measure, Rotterdam written by Jon Britain and directed by Donnacadh O’Brian, is a deeply emotional play about sexuality, identity and finding where you fit in society.
We meet Alice (Alice McCarthy) one night in the apartment she shares with her girlfriend Fiona (Anna Martine) and best friend Josh (Ed Eales-White) agonising over sending an email to her parents. She is finally ready to admit she is a lesbian and is in love with another woman but before she can hit send, Fiona drops a bombshell of her own; all her life she has felt trapped in the wrong body and wants to change her name to Adrian start living as a man.
As they both try to adapt to this new life they are rushing towards, Adrian is eager to discover the freedom that comes from not having to hide who you are. But at what cost? Alice is struggling to come to terms with her problems, and is drifting away from the life she knew. When out spoken, fun loving Dutch girl Leilani (Jessica Clark) comes along, she bursts the bubble Alice has been living in and shows her what she is missing out on by not fully embracing life.
Rotterdam is not shy about speaking the truth and doesn’t hide from the real issues it is exploring or the feelings that these issues stir in different people. When someone you love it going through a momentous, life-changing event you are supposed to be unwaveringly supportive and ignore your own feelings, but Alice discovers that is not so easy. Without the person she usually confides in, trying to keep on top of her feelings proves to be the path to self-destruction.
The other person in their lives, Josh, full of idealism after a couple of pints one night, laments society’s need to put labels on everyone and muses how much easier life could be if we all just treated each other simply as people. This play and the characters within it are sensitive and complex. Even when you feel a character is in the wrong it is impossible to hate them, you feel sympathy for them because you can see their side of the story plainly.
The tone of the play switches between lighter comedic moment and emotional moments with ease. During scene changes, techno music pumps and bright lights flash around the auditorium, and this goes some way to painting a picture of life in the city they live in. But it is the strength of the writing; the idea and the execution, which paints the most vivid picture. Rotterdam is a touching and relatable piece of theatre and the cast of four actors bring it to life superbly.
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By Catherine Duffy
26th July – 27th August 2016
Trafalgar Studios 2, London SW1A 2DY