Words by Anna Whitfield
Growing up in our current political climate, I constantly see that the world can be a very for people who don’t fit into societies’ concept of what is ‘acceptable’. Naturally, human beings are scared of things that are ‘different’. Recently, people are attempting to put forward a message through art and performance, to educate us on accepting others.
Rotterdam is a beautifully crafted example of this. The play includes jokes about current events without losing the audience of non-millenials, offering us a script which all ages can laugh along to and empathise with. I reviewed the play in Theatr Clwyd, where there was a mixed audience regarding age, which was surprising due to the stereotype that people from older generations aren’t always the most accepting of the LGBT+ community. The audience felt like a keen community that wished to be educated. Additionally, the use of Europop music when scenes changed and the characters dancing along offered us with a narrative in itself. Which was often quite cathartic.
Rotterdam is a play where most of the characters restrict themselves from moving on, in one form or another. The only time where a character wishes to do so, it subsequently effects everyone else’s lives.
Without giving too much away, the play opens with a dialogue between two gay women, Alice and Ffi. Alice wishes to come out to her parents via email on the night before New Year’s Eve. The couple have been together for seven years, however, they have gone to the extent of living away from the UK in Rotterdam, as Alice is worried of her parents finding out about her sexuality. On the same night, Ffi reveals to Alice that she’s transgender. The play shows Ffi’s journey (who later becomes known as Adrien) of the transitional process with the support of his loved ones.
What makes this play so important is that it not only discusses the transition of a transgender individual, but also the reaction of his girlfriend and his family. Seeing someone who you know and love transition can be quite traumatic for some. By representing this, the play shows a distinct depth of realism. People are human, and when someone completely changes their gender, it is going to be a shock which a lot of people involved adjust to. No character in this play is perfect, but this makes everything feel so much more real. We make mistakes all the time, and sometimes we can’t always be angelically supportive, but this doesn’t make us bad people.
Rotterdam plays with our emotions perfectly. It is raw, it is definitely shocking at times, but most importantly, it is uplifting. It offers us hope that people, when educated, can be understanding and supportive, no matter what we want. I recommend Rotterdam to anyone who wishes to understand the LGBTQ+ community. I myself was not the most clued up on this before going into the play, but it’s art that we can both learn from and relate to our own lives and the complicated decisions we have to make.