Rotterdam – The Review

Rotterdam play cast members

A couple of weeks back, I was given a few tickets to go see Rotterdam at the Opera House in Manchester. If I’m honest, I hadn’t heard of the play before, but after reading the synopsis I thought it would be well worth a trip to the theatre.

However, after the show, it had clicked that I had heard of Rotterdam. Not so much for the play, but for an incident that happened during the tour.

The week prior to Manchester’s performances, the show was cancelled in Southampton because two of the actors were attacked in a hate crime.

This was one of many hate crime attacks over the last few weeks that have been in the media. It’s also been reported the LGBT hate crime has more than doubled in the last four years, with the trans community seeing the highest increase!

Yet, at this time every year, we hear the same boring question on why we need Pride. Or why Straight Pride doesn’t exist! The attacks show exactly why it is still needed. And plays such as Rotterdam are vital to helping educate and provide a better understanding. Inside and out the LGBT+ community.

What is Rotterdam all about?

In a nutshell, it’s about a long-term lesbian couple living in Rotterdam (hence the play name). Alice is not out to her parents, and she has penned this emotional email to tell them but doesn’t want to send it for fear of being rejected by her parents.

Just as she is about to hit send, her girlfriend confessed a secret she’s been hiding for a long time…that they are a trans man.

The play progresses to tell the aftermath of this confession. The trials and tribulations that both go through and the effect that it has on their relationship.

This is such a thought-provoking play. It has the right mix of humour and drama. It was definitely a rollercoaster of emotion.

For anyone that is LGBT+, they will understand Alice’s fear of rejection from family and friends. And some of those will be lucky enough to have parents like Fiona/Adrian who are accepting and provide the unconditional love that they need.

Not all the actors in the show, were as billed in the programme, so felt like they didn’t get the recognition that they deserved.

Lucy Jane Parkinson, who plays Fiona/Adrian was an absolute stand out for me. They provided the comedy and internal/external battle they were dealing with superbly. Some of this may come from their own experiences as being a non-binary actor.

Additionally, I want to give a little nod to Paul Heath, who played Josh. During scenes, he predominately changed the set but did this in character. It added some additional humour it what is normally a stale part of a play. It made it feel like it was a continuous story too.


Rotterdam staging

Now it has been a long time since I did A-levels Theatre Studies, which I didn’t get a good mark in, but I do like to try and decipher what the staging represents. I may be off the mark, but this is what I got from it.

The imagery used, I presumed, was the backdrop of Rotterdam. Bridges took prominent space, which I thought was symbolic about ‘building bridges’ wether this is between parent and child, siblings or partners.

The set contained a lot of black and white boxes, which felt like it represented being pigeonholed to what is expected from society. Some of the cubes were covered by doors, or the imagery, to confirm that we aren’t and we do things to blend in with everyone.

Throughout the play, it broke away from this by changing colour and being multifunctional props. One of the boxes was used as a wardrobe and a door, which instantly screamed ‘coming out of the closet’.

The colours used in the imagery was mainly pink and blue, which make up the Transgender Pride flag. While the lighting brought in other colours from the LGBT+ Pride flag.

Overall thoughts

This play deserved a bigger audience than I witnessed that night, and hopefully, as time goes by then this will happen.

It would be good if this play toured some of the pride events, including trans pride such as Sparkle and Trans Pride Brighton. I’d hope with the publicity from the Prides and the additional LGBT+ in the area, that it would get the audiences that it deserves.

It is definitely worth going to see, even if you’re not part of the LGBT+ community. It’s a good stepping stone to understanding what someone who is trans, and the journey that they and their friends go through.

One thing that I’ve learnt is that every trans journey is different. There is similarities, but their stories are theirs. And this is how to treat Rotterdam. This is Fiona/Adrian’s story.

So when you get the opportunity…go and see it!


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