What do you do when you start to question something that’s a huge part of your life and who you are as a person?
When Alice is about to come out to her parents via email on New Year’s Eve in Rotterdam, she finds herself struggling to press the send button. She’s run spell check more times than she can count, written countless drafts, but something seems to be holding her back in sharing her secret with the rest of the world.
But just as she’s about to pluck up the courage, Alice’s long-term girlfriend Fiona reveals that he has always identified as a man and wants to start living as one under the name of Adrian. And so, Alice is left with once again leaving the email unsent, but this time with a whole new situation to deal with. And as Adrian begins his transition, Alice begins to ask herself, is she actually straight?
What follows is a story of love, heartbreak, loss and acceptance, in a show that approaches such a delicate subject matter in the most outstandingly brilliant way. The LGBTQ+ community is slowly beginning to get the recognition that it deserves within the world of theatre, and Rotterdam has approached the issues that trans and gay people face far too often, while balancing the seriousness with a good old pinch of humour that makes for two and a half hours of utterly superb theatre.
Featuring just a cast of four, more often than not I found myself forgetting that I was actually watching a production, for the acting was not only convincing, but simply outstanding. Lucy Jane Parkinson provided an admirable performance as Fiona, as does Bethan Cullinane as Alice. Equally, both Ellie Morris (Lelani) and Elijah W. Harris (Josh) don’t hold back in delivering highly respectable performances.
The staging of this show too is wonderfully clever, as the story unfolds within a small cube that fills just a section of the stage. Through the genius use of lighting and sound effects, many balloons, three boxes and a couple of chairs, this cube is an apartment, a bar, an office, an apartment, making it easier to become immersed within Alice and Adrian’s world.
At times, I found myself questioning how emotionally draining each performance for the cast of Rotterdam must be, as it captures you from the moment you take your seat surrounded by blazing Dutch pop music to the moment you leave the auditorium. It’s certainly a challenging watch, but one that needs to be seen, none the less.
There’s no questioning as to why Rotterdam bagged itself an Olivier Award in 2017, it’s a beautifully crafted piece of theatre that’s going above and beyond to educated audiences up and down the country with its unforgettable story.
*Disclaimer // I was invited to watch Rotterdam by Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. I did not pay for my tickets, but was asked to write a review in exchange. All views are my own.