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Rotterdam at Arts Theatre, London

“where Ayckbourn’s middle-class angst smashes up against 21st Century issues”

I rarely give a standing ovation - call me hard-hearted, but most of the time I can simply admire performers doing their job really well by clapping very loudly.

Jon Brittain’s Rotterdam, however, grabbed me. I laughed through the tears as the four characters made war and peace, hated and loved and produced some of the best roaring arguments I have seen on stage in a long time. Many people are raving about the play’s approach to LGBTQIA+ issues. Yet, although some of those strains are what drives the plot, I think it goes beyond that. The play is about everyone: our very identity is in question and how we and our loved ones deal with who we actually are and what we actually want.

[Alice McCarthy and Anna Martine Freeman]

The play centres around the lesbian couple Alice and Fiona living in Rotterdam, played to sublime perfection by Alice McCarthy and Anna Martine Freeman respectively. Alice is trying to find the confidence to come out to her ‘very English’ parents back home. Keeping the secret is stifling her on all levels, but unknown to her, Fiona has a bigger secret.

Ed Bales-White plays a wonderful Josh. Josh is Alice’s ex-boyfriend and still hangs around, even after seven years since they split up, because, of course, he still lives her.

[Ed Bales-White and Alice McCarthy]

The love-triangle is confused further by the presence of Lelani, a local lesbian full of life but desperately lonely, played just on the right side of crazy by Ellie Morris.

This piece premiered in October 2015 at Theatre 503, before transferring to Trafalgar Studios. Then it won the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre. Earlier this year a brief run off-Broadway followed. Now it’s back, feeling caged-in at The Arts Theatre, trapping the characters inside their world, an ingenious colourful box of primary Pride colours, superbly designed by Ellan Parry. Aided and abetted by the pumping Euro-Pop beats designed by Keegan Curran.

[Ellie Morris and Alice McCarthy]

Donnacadh O’Briain’s direction has the actors pushing the boundaries of comedy and tragedy. The theatrical mask with its two emotionally opposing faces was designed for plays like this. It’s where Ayckbourn’s middle-class angst smashes up against 21st Century issues.

A must-see play.

Production Photographs are by Hunter Canning

Performances until Saturday 15th July 2017

Monday - Saturday at 7.30pm

Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm

Running time: 2 hours (plus an interval)

Twitter: @ArtsTheatreLDN, @RotterdamPlay, @hartshorhook

Producer: Louis Hartshorn and Brian Hook, Hartshorn-Hook Productions

Location: Arts Theatre, 6-7 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JB

Box Office: Tickets are available from £15-£55 from the Arts Theatre Box

Or by calling 020 7836 8463

Notes: Age recommendation of 14+

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