Writer: Jon Brittain
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
“Rotterdam is anywhere. Anywhere alone…” goes the Beautiful South song. To the three British expats in Jon Brittain’s play, first seen at Theatre 503 in 2015, the Dutch port city is a place where things are moved in and out and now they are all looking for the exit. Alice came to be alone, believing Rotterdam to be a location to which her boyfriend Josh would never follow her. He did, bringing with him his little sister Fiona who promptly paired up with Alice.
Seven years on, it is 31st December in the flat the three share and Alice has at last decided to come out to her parents by e-mail, her finger hovering over the “send” button as if she could be about to launch a nuclear missile, but Fiona has a bombshell of her own. She reveals that she is really a man living in a woman’s body and plans to change her gender. It is time for the fireworks and the beginning of a not so Happy New Year for all.
Fiona sets out on the journey that will transform her into Adrian – and Alice, who has only ever found women attractive, has to adjust to her long-term partner becoming a man and one who gets mistaken for his sibling, her former boyfriend. Brittain juggles dilemmas of sexual and gender identity deftly and Donnacadh O’Briain’s brisk production is well-suited to the intimate setting here.
Brittain has a real feel for comedy, poking fun at the uptight, dithering Alice (Alice McCarthy) and the transitional Fiona/Adrian (Anna Martine). Jessica Clark is engaging as the carefree office girl who tries to lure Alice away, but the best one-liners are reserved for the jocular Josh and Ed Eales-White makes great use of them. However, all this comedy comes from scratching the surface of the issues raised and Brittain is far less successful when attempting to dig deeper into the emotional turmoil faced by his characters.
The play is made up of a succession of shortish scenes, punctuated by bursts of Euro-pop, Ellan Parry’s modern, predominantly white set design giving the production a cold feel. Most of the scenes could be better described as arguments – the characters convene, usually in pairs, they have a row and they part. This repetitive pattern eventually gets wearying and it also contributes to robbing the play of much of the warmth and tenderness that it would need to become genuinely moving.
At least 75% of Rotterdam is breezy comedy, which provides just about enough entertainment to gloss over disappointment that it does not quite arrive at anything more profound.
Runs until 27 August 2016 | Image: Piers Foley Photography