I went to see Overflow at the Bush Theatre, the first show I’ve seen there since The High Table back in February, after which their 2020 schedule was cancelled by Covid-19.
I got to see what the theatre had been involved with during the lockdown times.
I got to see how live performances work under social distancing arrangements.
When the time for the show came due, I had to queue by the outside door to go in to seating block A, on the right hand side of the stage, while blocks B and C went in via the main door. At the end we were also sent back out in batches, 53 seats had been allocated, in an auditorium that can usually take up to I think about 200 at most.
The Holloway Theatre can be arranged for shows either in the round or in an oriented design; on this occasion the set has a definite backdrop representing the tiled wall of the main set, which is facing and most clearly visible to block B, despite being on a circular base. This was a minor problem for a viewer at the side like myself, and I couldn’t see all of the moment when Rosie scribbled graffiti on the reproduction Venus De Milo statuette. The set was fully connected to plumbing, and water poured out from the taps and also the overhead piping when required.
The show is a monologue in which Rosie talks about her life as a trans person, confined and menaced within what seems at first to be a luxurious symbol-space; it is no more real than the room at the end of 2001:A Space Odyssey but rather a representation of an emotional zone she has been pushed in to. Her speech takes up reminiscences about lessons learned and growth since she came to London after a childhood puzzled about feelings and identity; about allies and enemies and “intrusive data collection forms at work” and going out “together on the dance floor to hunt anyone who looks like he could be called Matt down”; about the opinions of opinion columnists who are a background noise that seems to get louder; about the club scene and raves and friends who just don’t have the energy for it anymore and are growing apart. The imagery of water plays several roles: the fluidity of boundaries, the interruption of life by overflows and bursts, the washing away of stains and softening of skin before immersion, the threat of drowning.
I know I’m not suppose to copy from the playscript but as I’m giving a positive review I don’t suppose anyone will mind me including these 2 photos, one of which is quote from elsewhere anyway: