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Rotterdam review at London’s Theatre 503 – ‘sweet, heartfelt and funny’

It’s not the easiest balance to strike, but Jon Brittain’s warm-hearted new play manages to speak eloquently about a complex issue while at the same time being properly laugh-out-loud funny. It’s an arresting combination and likely to prove another winner for Theatre 503, a venue that has been having a really impressive run of things of late.

Alice is finally readying herself to come out to her parents when her girlfriend of seven years announces that she, or rather he, has always identified as a man and now wants to take the next step along that road: to transition, to stop being Fiona and start living as Adrian.

Brittain explores the emotional impact of this on Alice, as well as on Adrian’s brother, Josh, while also showing how Adrian copes once he begins presenting as a man. He manages to do this all within the framework of a romantic comedy, full of the tightly-constructed jokes and lines that land.

While Ellan Parry’s retro set adds to this sitcom effect, there’s also delicacy and truth to the writing – this is a very human play, one that never feels overtly issue-driven or forced.

The central tangle of relationships in Donnacadh O’Briain’s production is shaded and emotionally engaging, and there are strong performances all round from Anna Martine as Adrian, Alice McCarthy as Alice, and Ed Eales-White, hugely endearing as Josh, a supportive, kind man, who in his way loves both of them. Jessica Clark is also on (literally) sparkling form as the young Dutch girl who sets her sights on Alice.

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Sweet, heartfelt and funny new play about gender, identity and love