Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Warmth, respect and humour make for a fully human drama

Warmth, respect and humour make for a fully human drama

Rotterdam | Oxford Playhouse | Thursday, June 20

TWO gay women have been living together for seven years when one of them announces that she’s really a man trapped in a woman’s body.

Oh what confusion and fun can be made of that - the very stuff of farce.

Maybe it will be one day, but not this time.

Rotterdam takes that basic conflict and treats it with humour (buckets of the stuff), warmth and, most of all, a great deal of respect.

Rotterdam is a joyous celebration of what it is to be human and we emerge from it enriched and royally entertained.

It’s a serious subject but at no stage does it preach or fall into the trap of being earnest.

We see inside what we think is a contented gay coupling at the point where one of the pair, Alice, is about to bite the bullet and come out to her parents — as a “Lebanon”.

Then she is trumped by her partner coming out to her and then her parents that she identifies as a man, always has done, and was only masquerading as a gay woman.

Where does that leave Alice, who has no sexual interest in men? Stumbling around in a state of confusion, what else!

Jon Brittain’s script manages to touch all the bases but with a light tread. Why make a point with a sledgehammer when a joke will do it better?

He manages this throughout the two hours of the show and it’s only in the last half hour that it becomes deeply emotional.

Spoiler alert: there’s a break-up with all the ache and hurt that involves.

Lucy Jane Parkinson as Fiona and then her male version, Adrian, and Rebecca Banatvala as Alice could easily tear your heart out with their performances.

What they do with the assured direction of Donnacadh O’Briain is remind us that beneath the labels of sexuality and gender lie hurting, loving, warm human beings and their emotions are universal. It’s a powerful message.

Getting there takes us through an interesting tour of sexuality — Alice finds herself at sea when she finds she is with a man and not a gay woman as she previously thought.

She’d spent her life defining herself as gay and took solace from her relationship. Now she finds that the one she loves is not like her after all. How will it end?

I won’t tell you but it’s not revealing too much to say we’re rooting for them both.

Rotterdam, from Hartshorn-Hook Productions, is a joy from beginning to end.

Until Saturday.

Mike Rowbottom

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