Rotterdam at Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham


Alice is about to click send on an email to her parents to tell them she’s a lesbian, when her partner of seven years, Fiona, reveals that she has always thought she were a man and now wants to start living as one, as Adrian.

As Adrian begins his transition, Alice wants to be supportive but is conflicted what this means for her: is she still a lesbian if she is in a relationship with Adrian, does she want to be in a relationship with him, and what about her work colleague Lelani? And what does this mean for Josh, Adrian’s older brother and Alice’s ex; will he finally move on from his own heartache at losing his girlfriend to his own sibling?

Set in Rotterdam, the idea of fluidity is also central to the story; as one of the characters points out, as a port, it is not meant to be a place that people stay forever and this is something which each of the characters are dealing with, even Lelani who seems quite sure of herself has escaped her small town for the bright lights of the city, moving from one father-figure to another. Interestingly though, the idea of gender fluidity is absent from the play.

Written by Jon Brittan after realising there are very few trans-narratives on stage or screen, Rotterdam puts a trans character at the centre of the story, but his transition is not the only story.  Yes, Rotterdam deals with LGBT issues, but it is played out more like a modern romanic comedy: there’s the love triangle between Alice, Adrian and Lelani; the scars of a love triangle between Alice, Adrian and Josh; and the question of whether Alice can love the man Adrian is becoming. Adrian’s transition and transgender identity is central to the story, but normalises it as part of a wider story of how this affects him and his loved ones; it is part of the narrative, rather than the narrative itself.

Whilst the play deals with some heavy subjects, it has some delightfully comedic moments which are sharp observations and give depth to the characters and a sense of reality, rather than forcing it into a pigeon-holed issues-based play. It is often Alice who delivers these moments, her self-assurance betrayed by an almost comedic sense of doubt.

All of the actors really bring to life the characters; whilst it is Lewis Forby plays Adrian, the catalyst for the story, it is Hannah Lawrence’s whose stand-out performance portraying Alice’s highly-strung personality and inner conflict so convincingly which steals the show.  Ben Andrew plays the lovelorn Josh on just the right side of hapless and Fleur De Wit embodies a sultry Lelani with just the right touch of hedonism.

A simple set is used effectively, with key pieces of furniture moved round to create different settings, and at times the set changes are woven into the story.  The scene transitions are aided with short bursts of song, which worked better at some times than others.

Ultimately though, Here to There Production’s Rotterdam is a success, a bittersweet romantic comedy about identity and change, which sensitively portrays transgender identity. But ultimately, it’s just a story about love.

For more information, visit Here to There Production’s website:

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