Exploring the romantic, political and social implications of transitioning whilst in a relationship, Rotterdam is a play written by Jon Brittain and directed by Donnacadh O’Briain.
I caught up with Donnacadh O’Briain for a behind-the-scenes look at the production.
When did you first encounter Rotterdam?
I found it in a pile of unproduced scripts I was given by Theatre503. I’d met Jon before, but didn’t know his work well. I suppose my response was that I didn’t read any more scripts from that pile after reading Rotterdam – I found it so emotionally impactful, that I knew I’d found what I was looking for.
You’re preparing for a UK tour of the production in 2019. From a directorial perspective, what are some of the factors you need to consider when preparing for a tour?
The main thing is putting together the new cast. The show has gained a certain profile, and so we’re in a position to take a leading role in seeking out and supporting trans actors in the theatre sector, so finding our new cast is an exciting and important mission. That principle extends to the wider team as well.
What’s the casting process?
First, we’ll be getting the word out to the acting community – though we’re already getting approaches since we announced. Alongside that, we’ll be targeting places where trans performers get information – so that a diverse range of actors can get in touch. We only have the resources to meet a percentage of those who apply, so a key part is going through CVs and showreels.
How do you navigate some of the sensitivities about trans roles being played by trans people?
We’re committed to casting a trans actor in the role of Adrian – who is trans – that’s a decision we made quite a while ago. Beyond that, we’re open to trans or cis performers for cis roles, as well as encouraging trans applicants for other positions within the production.
The lives of trans people seems to be a source of constant fascination and debate within the media and generally. Do you feel that a UK production of this play will help people to move past that?
I think the story is very accessible – it’s essentially a rom-com – and un-preachy. Allowing its characters, cis and trans, to be funny, serious, right, wrong, rude, angry, silly, selfish, and a pretty universal range of the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of people. Gender is part of the story, but it’s who they are that drives the narrative, not ‘what’.
What do you hope that people feel when watching Rotterdam?
Empathy, confusion, clarity, joy, loss. It was thrilling to watch audiences go on the journey the first time around, and I can’t wait to see that unfold again all over the UK.