From London, England, ROTTERDAM

by Lynn on July 7, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At The Arts Theatre, London, England.

Written by Jon Brittain
Directed by Donnacadh O’Briain
Designed by Ellan Parry
Lighting by Richard Williamson
Sound, composition by Keegan Curran
Movement by Jüri Nael
Cast: Anna Martine Freeman
Alice McCarthy
Ed Eales-While
Ellie Morris

A fascinating play about gender politics, well done, but not explored deeply enough.

The Story. Alice is struggling to write an email to her parents telling them she is a lesbian. She lives in Rotterdam with her lover Fiona. Initially Alice came to Rotterdam with her boyfriend Josh, for work. But then she met Josh’s sister, Fiona and that was that. She left Josh for Fiona but was still friends with Josh. Alice, a reticent woman, can’t send the email just yet. Alice is the femme in the relationship and Fiona is the butch. Then Fiona has news of her own. She wants to live as a man. She wants to go through the whole procedure, hormones, surgery, etc. to live as a man, and changed her name to Adrian. What she has not considered when she makes this decision (and has not told Alice until then) is that Alice loves a woman named Fiona. Then when most of the change (but not full surgery) takes place and all Adrian wants is to ‘pass’ as a man, and ‘he’ proposes to Alice to live as man and wife, is that Adrian had not conserved what Alice really wanted.

The Production. Donnacadh O’Briain’s production is pulsing with rock music from the get-go. Alice is on stage with her lap-top in her lap as the audience files in. She is struggling with her letter to her parents. Fiona keeps popping into the room to check what she’s written but Alice hides the screen. When the play proper begins the two banter and talk about Alice’s reluctance to tell her parents. Fiona is supportive. Josh keeps popping in too. He loves them both and there is no anger that the relationship between him and Alice failed. They are still friends.

Alice, as played by Alice McCarthy is a wobble of uncertainty about the email, about relationships, about wanting to go home. It doesn’t help that too often McCarthy mumbles her words and they get lost in a squeaky sound. As Fiona, Anna Martine Freeman as Fiona has the body language of a boyish man, loose-limbed, big movements but graceful. The hair is a short bob. As Adrian the hair was parted and slicked back as a man’s. The body language is now broad, aggressive, slumped when standing, hands in the pockets. The face is still soft but there is that in between look of her/him when you aren’t sure it’s a man or a woman, and to the person we are looking at our perception is important. I like that whole question of wanting to pass.
Lelani is a young lesbian who works in Alice’s office. She makes the moves on Alice but her placement in the play seems slight and not solidly developed. Lelani is flighty, flitting from one person to another. That Alice can’t tell her she isn’t interested strongly enough speaks to Alice’s weakness.

Comment. I love the whole question of the gender fluidity being addressed, but find it difficult to believe that Fiona would not have had the conversation with Alice about wanting to live her life as a straight man and how that would affect Alice. I find it hard to believe that Fiona/Adrian would not have even considered that Alice would not find this agreeable. The whole question of who actually do we love when we say to someone that we love him/her? Is it the gender of the person? The person and the gender is not important? The person and the gender is important. I am grateful for these questions. But for the whole play I thought that Jon Brittain does not delve deeply enough into the many thorny questions he’s introduced. Still Rotterdam is a good start.

Runs until July 10, 2017.

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