"When Your Lover Changes Sex"
by Alison Goldie for remotegoat on 23/06/17

The city of Rotterdam is a busy port where people are constantly in transit, and a place which completely reinvented itself after being bombed to pieces in the Second World War, both of which facts make Jon Brittain’s choice of location for his play about transsexuality particularly apt.

The play opens with Alice composing a coming out email to her parents: after seven years of relationship with Fi, she has mustered up the courage to reveal she’s gay. Alice (Alice McCarthy) is cautious to the point of conservatism, Fi (Anna Martine Freeman) seems bolder, more expansive and outspoken, and urges Alice on. Then, just before Alice hits send, Fi stops her to drop a bombshell: she has always felt she was a man inside a woman’s body and now wants to live openly as male. The story that follows examines the impact of this news on Alice’s sexual identity just as much as it shows Fi’s challenging journey to become ‘Adrian’.

Delicious complications to the central relationship come in the form of Fi/Adrian’s brother and Alice’s best friend, Josh, engagingly played by Ed Eales-White, and a sparkling lesbian whirlwind, Lelani (Ellie Morris) who insists on showing Alice the thrills of Dutch culture, a tempting alternative life for Alice as she struggles with her dilemma at home.

Now revived at The Arts Theatre, this Olivier Award winning play is a real treat. The cast work together as a unified ensemble, the design reflects the cool modernity of Rotterdam, and the Europop soundtrack is buoyant and fresh. If there’s a caveat, it’s that the overriding register of the piece is too often set to ‘squabble’. Luckily, the high quality and strong ratio of jokes make this largely forgivable. Most importantly, Brittain in his sensitive handling of potentially difficult material, delivers a persuasive, moving and riotously funny show for these times in which taboos on transgenderism are increasingly being smashed.

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