dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Award-winning play shines the light on relationships
Jon Brittain's Olivier-award winning drama comes to Birmingham Repertory Theatre as part of a UK tour. A bitter-sweet comedy, Rotterdam turns the spotlight on gender, sexuality, relationships, family, understanding and misunderstanding.
Alice and Fiona have been a couple for seven years and Alice is finally at the point of coming out to her family by email. But before she can press send, Fiona drops the bombshell that she actually identifies as a man and wants to begin the transition.
But it's not just Fiona's identity which comes into question because Alice is left struggling with how she feels about suddenly having a boyfriend rather than a girlfriend – and whether she can be attracted to a man. Throw into the mix Josh, Alice's ex-boyfriend and Fiona/Adrian's elder brother and Lelani, a Dutch colleague of Alice's who is making a play for Alice and the whole situation implodes.
Set in the port town of Rotterdam, Brittain's drama also touches on ideas of geographical and emotional distance with the trio at the heart of the drama living in The Netherlands but making no attempt to integrate. In fact, they all hold onto the idea of a 'home' they can escape to when the going gets tough.
There are really strong performances by all the cast. Lucy Jane Parkinson is both funny and irreverent as Fiona/Adrian but also heartbreakingly hurt and raw when everything begins to fall apart. Rebecca Banatvala's Alice is nervy and unsure, floundering in a situation not of her making, which sees her veer between anger and reluctance.
Paul Heath plays the comic foil Josh with whom everyone can sound out their frustrations – until he too reaches a point where their problems are more than he can take. And Stella Taylor plays the youthful Lelani, out for a good time and seemingly without the insecurities of those around her.
Rotterdam is carefully crafted with well thought out dialogue which makes the audience agree and disagree with pretty much all of the characters at some point or other. Caught up in a maelstrom of emotions, it is hard to put your finger on who is asking too much of those they love.
Directed by Donnacadh O'Briain and designed by Ellan Parry, it's a stylish production with slick scene changes set to loud Euro-pop music. The set is the interior of the couple's flat with doors and windows allowing multiple entries and exits – ensuring constant escape routes.
An intelligent and perceptive play, while the story focusses very strongly on Adrian's transition it also makes us all question our relationships and whether our love for someone depends on their gender or sexuality.