Another stunning success at the acclaimed Theatre503 has deservedly found its way into the West End to the intimate setting at Trafalgar Studios 2. Jon Brittain’s bittersweet comedy Rotterdam, has been given a louder voice and rightly so; it’s an important piece that needs to be heard.
Rotterdam tells the story of girlfriends Alice (Alice McCarthy) and Fiona (Anna Martine) living together in the Netherlands. Alice has never quite warmed to living there, she hasn’t taken time to learn the language or integrate herself into the community. However, it’s her escape from confronting her parents back home about the fact that she is gay. As she struggles to ‘come out’ in an email to tell them, Fiona is stumbling over words to tell Alice she wants to start living as a man, Adrian.
Their journey unfolds over New Year’s Eve and Brittain’s story lays bare the struggles of coming out and the need for acceptance and feeling comfortable with who we truly are. It’s a tender tale, eloquently written and touchingly honest. It’s all mixed together with a huge dollop of witty humour, largely brought by Alice’s Dutch eccentric colleague, Lelani, played superbly by Jessica Clark.
Lelani is a glittering (literally), free-spirited woman who shows Alice that life is for living and not to get too hung up on the small stuff. She should embrace who she is and in return Lelani teaches Alice to love who Fiona has become. When the people close to us change, Brittain reminds us of the deeply rooted connection we have with those we love and that it never really fades.
No one is more accepting than Fiona’s big brother Josh, played endearingly by Ed Eales-White. He is the foundation and stability for Fiona to hold onto and provides unflinching support when emotions get tough. Alice McCarthy and Anna Martine however are the true stars of this piece, delicately portraying not just transgender but homosexuality in equal parts.
It’s utterly heartfelt and director Donnacadh O’Briain delivers Brittain’s words beautifully with sensitivity and realism. Alice and Adrian feel very personal to us and you can’t help but want to offer your support. Sadly, I am sure many still experience the disapproval from friends and family and the heart-breaking reality is that LGBTQ still carries a stigma in parts of society today. But Rotterdam is powerfully inspiring and hopeful and it really lingers long after the show finishes. Let us all be proud of who we are, regardless of our sexual orientation.
(Photo courtesy of Piers Foley Photography)