Saturday, March 2, 2024

Overflow

Overflow
Writer: Travis Alabanza
Director: Dino Dimitriadis
Darlinghurst Theatre
September 9 – 25, 2022

Overflow, by British playwright Travis Alabanza, a 60-minute monologue and fearlessly performed by a passionate Janet Anderson, showcases the challenges faced by transgender people. In a compelling hour of theatre, Anderson, as trans-woman Rosie, struggles to confront and control the emotions overwhelming her as she seeks refuge from a threatening world in the women’s bathroom.

The moment a breathless and gorgeous Rosie erupts through the door into a steely club bathroom – shiny metal and tiles designed for efficient cleaning – this confined space becomes her personal theatre. Engagingly supported by lighting, sound and special effects, Rosie recalls scenes from her schooldays, moments of bathroom camaraderie with other women in pre-transphobic days, rapturous moments in which she feels “Hot!” and agonising moments in which she reveals her vulnerability and fear, as she waits for reprieve.

Her choice as a trans-woman has greatly reduced the scope of her life, its range measured by whether others accept or reject her. While the intermittent thundering on the door underlines the violent reaction of men to trans-women, legitimising her fear of irrational abuse, Rosie also mourns the passing of a time in which the women’s bathroom offered a genuine refuge and feminine support. While maybe an exaggerated view of a past era, it also offers a potential vision of a harmonious future.

The ciswomen, Rosie says, noticed “the stubble” but offered tips about make-up and compliments as well as ganging up against men. She notes wryly that currently ciswomen are contributing to increasing transphobia and questions what she sees as not only a betrayal of trans-women but also of women themselves. Emotionally overwhelmed at the prospect of being “drowned” by growing rejection and isolation, water overflows from the sink and toilet bowls. How to staunch the flood?

The brimming water also conveys the idea that Rosie is unlocking the flood gates of her anger and frustration and gaining in strength. The future may take a different turn.

She claims – ambivalently – Charlotte as a good friend from her schooldays who can be relied upon to rescue her from the bathroom after the time it takes to deliver her comical celebration of the “pre-emptive piss”. In accepting Charlotte’s help, Rosie sees, she is both serving Charlotte’s perception of herself as a tolerant person and accepting herself as disempowered. With her trans friend Zee, she is equal as they look, and feel, “good” together and being trans is “the least interesting thing about them”. Anderson celebrating a club moment with Zee is an unforgettable revelation of joy.

Overflow is a finely crafted and dynamically directed production, and with Anderson delivering a mesmerising performance, it is one not to be missed.

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theatre@ssh.com.au

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