Theatre review: Rotterdam

Here's why you don't want to miss the Olivier award-winning show about gender and sexual identity.


Piers Foley Photography


It's New Year's Eve and all change for Alice (Alice McCarthy) and Fiona (Anna Martine). Alice is about to come out to her parents via email because she really doesn't like awkward conversations. Before she can press send, her partner Fiona admits to being transgender and says he wants to be called Adrian. Alice wonders, if her girlfriend is actually a man, does that make her a "hasbian"?


As an avid theatre-goer and enthusiastic lesbian, it's rare that I find a play depicting queer characters I can relate to, let alone giving them leading roles. These people are flawed and funny, and three out of four are LGBTQ. Adrian's brother, Josh (Ed Eales-White), is so hilarious I don't mind him being a straight, cis, white guy. He's a total ally and sweetly reassuring to Adrian about coming out to their parents for a second time: "They'll love that you're trans. Gives them a whole new lot of marches to go on."


The thrill of watching people like me, my friends and my exes populate the stage was made even more enjoyable by the pumping Europop soundtrack and fast-paced one-liners. Turns out, "You can't use Jodie Foster to win every argument".


This gloriously talented cast delivers comedy and drama with equal finesse, creating engrossingly layered performances. Martine completely embodies Adrian's transformation and McCarthy is side-splittingly uptight as Alice. She frantically googles transgenderism and frets over what to tell her parents: "At the very least I'm going to need to add a P.S." And Lelani (Jessica Clark)… well, she's basically a Dutch, lesbian manic pixie dream girl who introduces Alice to spontaneity, spliffs, and glittery lipstick.


Engaging and exhilarating, this is theatre that's appealing even if you're not into theatre. If watching queer characters onscreen gives you pleasure, that pleasure is magnified tenfold when the actors are just a few feet away from you and you can see the raw emotion in their eyes. If Rotterdam was a sitcom, and it should be, I would binge watch the boxset.


You can watch Rotterdam at London’s Arts Theatre until 15 July. You can get your tickets here.


Grab a copy of the July issue of DIVA to read our interview with actress Anna Martine, who plays Adrian, available now via the links below.


Only reading DIVA online? You're missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It's pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves. // //


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