Birmingham Rep Studio


If life and relationships were not already full of tension and complexity, Jon Brittain manages to create a ball of woolly problems that’s bound so tightly it can only be accepted and never undone.

In this smart and highly charged comedy it’s the typical girl/girl relationship that threatens to become the typical boy/girl relationship. It also features someone who manages to be an ex-lover, friend to Alice and a brother to his sister or is that his brother?

When you strip back this rich top layer of gender and sexuality, what remains underneath is a powerful story of love, surviving radical personal change.

So, Alice and Fiona have lived together in Rotterdam for seven years. Fiona yearns to return to England but Alice is hiding out there from her family still unable to tell her parents she is gay. It’s New Year’s Eve and she is again reluctant to send the crucial `coming out’ email and face their reactions.

Fiona though has a `coming out’ bombshell to drop on Alice in that is she has decided she wants to transition to a man. A first it’s all a bit comical with the witty dialogue flowing well into sit com territory. However as the reality of this news sinks in and gets to acted upon, the once cosy setting of their trendy flat is now the backdrop to fierce arguments and heartbroken despair.

While Alice struggles with her beloved Fiona, literally changing in front of her to someone called Adrian, Fiona now resents and has anger for a world that simply still sees her as a woman in men’s clothes.

Her increasing frustration pushes her partner Alice into the romantic light of Lelani a fellow co-worker. If all this was not complicated enough they have Alice’s previous boyfriend staying with them. He, of course, just happens to be Fiona’s sister and she of course is soon to be his brother. This final layer adds a unique perspective to Brittain’s observations. Is Alice straight or still gay? Is Fiona now the man she left Josh for and is Fiona now just one of the lads?


Lucy Jane Parkinson

Lucy Jane Parkinson as Fiona/Adrian delivered the kind of performance that is rare to see on the stage these days. As a non-Binary performer she clearly has a personal vested interest in her character, a possibility that makes her arguments and eventual emotional breakdown both compelling and highly moving.

Her fierce exchanges with Alice seem unscripted, yet even at the top of her screaming voice she never loses focus with Brittain’s razor sharp insight into the depth of their loss and passion. Parkinson does such a convincing job as the girl wanting to be the boy, that when Alice leaves her she is left alone and appears drag-like as she desperately tries on a dress and heels as she totters about now a drunken, broken and emotional mess.

It’s such a great performance that you feel the pain and no matter how she got there or how complex the path was, the desperation translates powerfully to the audience.

Alice played by Rebecca Banatvala, is also full of emotional contradictions. Is the woman she loves now a man, so does that make her straight? Alice is shown to be somewhat of a coward, seemingly aloof and in control but constantly needing the affirmation of everyone around her to support and provide security, no matter how complex her attachments have become.

Banatvala certainly was equal to the speed and velocity of the arguments and her relationship to Fiona were perfectly balanced and again the focus on the subject was never lost in the heated exchanges.

Faced with change, Alice begins a friendship with the wild and trendy Lelani played by Stella Taylor. Lelani is the free young spirit that easily lures Alice into liberal abandonment and eventually her bed, while the tension rises at home. As the other woman and temptress she represents any attractive vice that distracts someone from facing their difficulty home life issues and the tensions that lie therein.

Finally there’s Paul Heath as Josh. Having lost Alice to his sister, Josh is like a lost puppy that has followed them to Rotterdam and hung around for seven years. Heath maintained the anchor point for reason in the intricate relationship web and although the central action takes place with his ex and his sister, his character provides some clarity to the emotional mess.

For anyone who is simply inert and sneers at the issues raised and trauma of those facing transition, this play offers the first real inspection of the subject and is both an amusing yet deeply painful observation. There is no preaching or parading of the cause here, you are just left to witness two people sadly heading into emotional breakdown and what could simply be more human than that. To 22-05-19

Jeff Grant


Rotterdam moves on to Malvern Theatres 23-25 May. 

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