DramaFeaturedLondonReview

Overflow – The Bush, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer: Travis Alabanza

Director: Debbie Hannan

Most of the theatres that have reopened across the country are offering seasonal shows, but The Bush, never an institution known for playing it safe, has reopened with a trans call to arms. Written by Travis Alabanza, Overflow is a powerful story of resistance.

Rosie has taken refuge in a bathroom. Someone is trying to get in. We’re not sure who it is, but Rosie is sure that they mean harm. She’s been attacked in bathrooms before.

It’s apt that Overflow takes place in a bathroom, as it was once the main battleground for trans issues. However, the media portrayed it as the only battleground and other, equally or more important, matters became obscured. Of course, Rosie mentions the times that she, as a trans woman, has been refused entry into the ladies, but this seems to her a more recent phenomenon, triggered by Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists’ demands for spaces for cis-gendered women only.

Rather than an arena for battle, Rosie wants to remember women’s bathrooms as a utopia; as a space where she is accepted by other women. One of the first times she ventured into the ladies of a pub, a woman gave her make up tips and advice on how to hide broad shoulders. The bathroom is also the place where women help each other and protect each other from the men outside. But that place of community seems a long way from the one Rosie is in now, with its dripping tap and blocked overflow.

Reece Lyons is excellent as Rosie, feisty but vulnerable and she slips easily into other characters such as Charlotte, the cis saviour. Lyons also manages to keep in check the meanderings of Alabanza’s writing which causes the tension to slump in a few places. But there’s a nice circularity to some of Rosie’s anecdotes, which come together for an almighty conclusion.

The Bush may be only a third full, due to social distancing, but rather than dilute the theatrical experience, the sparseness of the auditorium heightens the drama, almost as if we too are holed up in the bathroom with Rosie. Francis Botu’s sound design, seemingly coming from the Bush’s own pipes, threatens while Max Johns’ set holds a few surprises.

So three cheers for The Bush for daring to present something that isn’t connected with Christmas or pantomime. But there’s still enough spirit here for everyone.

Runs until 16 January 2021

 

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