Friday, 14 June 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Rotterdam - The Opera House, Manchester.

As June is LGBT Pride month, a month to celebrate the diversity of gender and sexuality in our society, I found watching the play Rotterdam was a invigorating, and in parts educational, story surrounding one person’s fight to express and ultimately become who they truly are. Rotterdam, a play written by Jon Brittain and directed by Donnacadh O’Briain explores the mental and physical changes that Fiona, a transgender man goes through to become Adrian, the person she has seen herself as her whole life. Alice, is the girlfriend of Fiona who, up until New Year’s Eve, hadn’t been able to tell her parents that she way gay. As Alice is contemplating pressing send on her emails, Fiona confides in Alice and tells her this burning secret.

As I sat ready to watch the performance of Rotterdam it was clear to see that designer Ellan Parry had worked hard on their marvelous creation. The city backdrops of the Dutch city were beautifully painted incorporating pastel tones. The harsh neon-coloured corridor through the doors, contrasted against the pastel interior of Alice’s apartment, giving the illusion that Rotterdam was bursting with colours and pride. Partnered beautifully with Parry’s set design was Richard Williamson’s lighting design, a beautiful and bespoke display of neutral tones washed over the apartment as we saw Fiona and Alice’s mundane day-to-day life. However when Adrian’s world comes crashing down around him Williamson’s use of bold oranges and fiery reds set the precedence for the conflict and despair the character was feeling, whilst contributing to the nightlife vibes the other characters were participating in. I also found quite pleasing the intimate details hidden throughout the show, which highlighted certain places throughout the city. Keegan Curran completed this trio of brilliance providing the funky yet harsh soundtrack that complimented the quirky transitions and earth-shattering moments. Popular classic such as Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own’ and Depeche Mode’s ‘I Just Can’t Get Enough’ added a refreshing twist to the electro-sounds that ran alongside each transition. Musically, Rotterdam was channeling 2019 Eurovision and I loved it!

As the play mainly surrounds Alice’s acceptance of Adrian and her own battle with accepting who she is, I found Rebecca Banatvala’s portrayal of the character straight to the point and utterly convincing. I sympathised with the character's confusion and forcefulness to get everything right alongside playing the role of the supportive girlfriend, this was evidently portrayed through Banatvala’s use of curious facial expressions and introverted body language. Her explosive monologues reminded me of the internal struggles the character would be facing and that we could never truly know how we would react in this situation until we were placed into it.

Stella Taylor captivatingly played Alice’s work colleague Lelani, a thought-provoking woman who oozed confidence with a hint of lust. Taylor clearly represented her quirky character through her carefree and exotic ways. Paul Heath on the other hand was everything a person would want in a brother and best friend. As the charismatic Josh, Heath was able to capture the audience with his peculiar sense of humour and loving personality. Interacting throughout each transition Heath's character was lovable, he was the gift that kept on giving!

I must admit that this performance would not have been what it was if it hadn’t have been for Lucy Jane Parkinson! Parkinson was stunning as the roles of Fiona and Adrian! I would find myself laughing with Fiona, a lesbian woman from Hull, whilst ultimately crying with Adrian, a transgender man trying to gain acceptance for himself in this world. Parkinson’s acting ability shone throughout the play especially whilst facing Alice’s rejection, here I was left speechless and tearful watching as this character's world came crumbling down. A price he had to pay for wanting to become himself. A fantastic performance from Parkinson!

One of the highlights of my night was, when watching the show, I found the audience to be refreshingly accepting of the themes and issues raised in the play. This brought joy to my heart that we are accepting of each other’s wants and needs to become the true person we are. Rotterdam deals with important themes and topics that are completely relevant to the times we live in and the struggles some people are facing.

Reviewer - Caroline Bleakley
on - 13/6/19

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