Out And Proud

Olivier Award-winning play Rotterdam is coming to the Midlands this month. What’s On caught up with returning cast member Ellie Morris to find out more about the show…

Engaging with a multitude of issues relevant to the LGBTQ+ community, Jon Brittain’s heartwarming comedy features a majority cast of non-binary, transgender and queer actors. 

‘Rotterdam is a fantastic comedy with lots of heart,” says cast member Ellie Morris, who plays out-and-proud Dutch party-girl Lelani. “It’s about a lesbian couple - Alice and Fiona - who live in Rotterdam, and Fiona comes out as transgender at the start of the play. The remainder of the play follows his journey from being Fiona to becoming Adrian, and looks at how that affects his relationship with Alice, his own identity and the people around him.” 

Ellie believes Rotterdam’s narrative is an important one to present in 2019. 

“Since this play was written, I think there’s actually been a massive amount of progression - certainly in the last five years. I feel like a lot more people know a lot more about the trans community and about what it means to be trans. But I do think there’s still a lot further to go with that. I think telling these stories, and just making people aware that being transgender is normal, is really important. Other than that, I think it’s just simply a really entertaining story. 

“My character, Lelani, is kind of the odd one out, in the sense that she doesn’t interact with all the other characters; she only really talks to Alice. Lelani is a 21-year-old Dutch girl who’s recently moved to Rotterdam, and she really opens up Alice in a way that Alice has never been opened up before. I think Alice is quite stuck in her ways and isn’t ‘out’ to her family. Alice is hiding a lot of herself, and Lelani is this fresh, young thing who comes in and breaks her open. Lelani just shows Alice a different way of living as a gay woman, and then ends up getting a little bit too attached to Alice…”

Ellie is returning to the role of Lelani, having previously played her during Rotterdam’s run at the Arts Centre in London.

“I honestly just adore this play. I think I’ve maybe performed it, like, 100 times, and every single time it’s just as good as the last. It’s just beautiful writing. The part I play is so interesting, and the play as a whole is just such a fantastic project - and one that really matters. It’s a very important story to tell for the LGBTQ+ community, especially now that it’s being made all the more poignant by the fact that a lot of the parts are played by trans or non-binary performers.”

Ellie is far from alone in adoring Rotterdam. Theatre critics and audiences alike have been equally enthusiastic about the play: ‘I think in the writing of Rotterdam there’s a really carefully told human story, and all the characters are so well-rounded yet flawed. They all have such valid experiences, and the audiences really get invested in their journey. That’s what’s really engaging about the story. There’s honestly something in there for everyone to relate to, from the breakdown of a relationship after being with someone for a long time, to the first heartbreak that Lelani goes through. Also, I have to add, Rotterdam has such a great soundtrack!”

Ellie hopes audiences up and down the country take in Rotterdam’s messages and learn something about the LGBTQ+ community: “When I began my journey with the show, I thought I knew a fair bit about what trans was and meant, but since then I’ve definitely learnt much, much more. I really hope that when people come to see the show, as well as enjoying it, their watching of it helps to normalise for them trans issues and experiences. 

What happens in Rotterdam isn’t some taboo subject. I think it’s so important that everybody be educated on something they may not personally have encountered, so that the realities for trans people aren’t viewed as strange or uncommon. The more stories there are like Rotterdam getting out into the public domain and making it into popular culture, the better.  It’s the best possible way to tackle taboos and, perhaps, prejudices surrounding the LGBTQ+ community.

“I would encourage anyone and everyone to come along and see Rotterdam. There’s so much in the show. It’s every bit as funny as it is dramatic, and there are lots of light moments alongside the more serious ones. If you want fireworks, balloons and a seriously good soundtrack, then this is the play for you!”

Rotterdam shows at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Monday 22 to Wednesday 24 April and Birmingham Repertory Theatre from Monday 20 to Wednesday 22 May.

By Lauren Cole