Review by Anja Bless
Any person lucky enough to have experienced the comradery and spontaneous friendship that occurs in a women’s nightclub bathroom will know the joy of inclusivity felt by Rosie the first time she was welcomed into the fold. But not as many will experience the pain, hurt, and fear of having that welcome taken away. Overflow is a play about both of these experiences, explored in a nondescript, utilitarian bathroom through the brilliant performance of Janet Anderson (Rosie). Written by Travis Alabanza, Overflow is a one-woman show exploring the highs and lows of life as a trans woman in modern London. It explores the friendships forged between nightclub toilet stalls, where cis and trans women alike share secrets, trade tips, and rally in defence of their fellow women against external threats. It is also about the often hollow basis of allyship, and how an enhanced focus on who should or shouldn’t be into allowed into what bathrooms has made the world a less safe place for trans humans.
Directed by Dino Dimitriadis, this Australian premiere of Overflow has all the grit of London town, but could easily be taking place in the bathrooms of Sydney. The toilet stalls set, also designed by Dimitriadis, serves as a refuge, a night club, the streets of London, school hallways, and a trap – one from which Rosie only sees one route of escape. Supported by impeccable sound (Danni A. Esposito) and lighting (Benjamin Brockman), Anderson is given ample support and space to explore every facet of Rosie. From her witty toilet humour, to her fear and fierce independence, and her conflicting emotions of discomfort and love of her body (special mention for the effortless physical embodiment of Rosie by Anderson should also be given to movement director, Fetu Taku). Grappling with a variety of British accents and characters, a credit also to voice and dialect coach Adriano Cabral, Anderson holds her own throughout a demanding performance. She walks the line between comedy and tragedy deftly, giving Rosie the strength she deserves while acknowledging the vulnerability she can’t escape.
While the use of water on stage added an element of tension, and a useful tool for which to add dynamism to the stagnant set and something for Anderson to interact with, at times Alabanza’s script overuses the water metaphors to the point of cliché. The costuming also led to some awkward moments as Anderson had to continually readjust her top, an unnecessary distraction for the performer, although the overall costuming worked well for the performance material. However, these are minor points in what is a very strong production engaging with complex and important conversations about the place that is often lacking for trans women in the feminist movement and society.
Darlinghurst Theatre Company is an extremely apt location for this show’s Australian debut, hopefully it is only the first of many theatres to host Overflow.
Image Credit: Robert Catto