Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 23rd April, 2019
Alice is a British girl working in Holland. New Year’s Eve is fast approaching and she’s in anguish over an email she’s trying to write to her parents, finally telling them that she is gay. On hand to offer advice is girlfriend Fiona, a down-to-earth northerner – trouble is, Fiona has her own revelation to make: she is a he and wants to present as such. Alice has difficulties supporting ‘Adrian’, fearing the loss of the woman she loves…
So begins Jon Brittain’s searing social comedy, on tour at last. The writing is sharp and funny, and it rings true, emotionally speaking. And there is more to the piece than laughter. The play gives us an insight into the personal lives of people who transition, in an empathetic albeit hilarious and sometimes moving fashion. The setting – Rotterdam – a port where everyone is either coming or going, reflects the state of flux of the play’s central relationship.
As uptight Alice, Bethan Cullinane is utterly credible, whether Alice’s outbursts are sarcastic or heartfelt. Equally strong is the excellent Lucy Jane Parkinson as Fiona/Adrian, plain-speaking in some respects and desperate to articulate emotions and experiences at other times. As the pair come under strain, we are brought to an understanding of both points of view.
They are supported by Elijah W Harris as Adrian’s brother and Alice’s ex (and now her best friend), Josh (Brittain keeps it in the family for added confusion and comedy value!), and Ellie Morris as Dutch party girl Lelani. Harris is the mediator, the Apollo to Morris’s Dionysus, pulling Alice in opposing directions. Both are great, with Morris in particular being very funny.
Director Donnacadh O’Briain gets comedy and emotion from his cast – even the transitions are fun (the scenic transitions, I mean!); there is also subtlety here. Beneath all the yelling and histrionics, the emotional truth comes out. It’s a vibrant, extremely likeable and thought-provoking production that sheds light on aspects of today’s society about which there is ignorance and prejudice. The humour makes the characters relatable, which leads to better understanding of this slice of human experience. Above all, it’s a love story and everyone can relate to that.
I could have done without the blaring electropop music though. Perhaps I’m just old.