Travis Alabanza’s second show is nothing short of a masterpiece, writes Lowie Trevena
BY LOWIE TREVENA, IMAGES BY HELEN MURRAY
In the UK, two thirds of trans people are afraid to use public bathrooms, but it’s often the cisgender voice put at the heart of the conversation, rather than the experiences of trans people.
Overflow, the latest show from award-winning theatre maker Travis Alabanza, changes this narrative. Our protagonist Rosie takes to the stage, breathless after running from a threat unseen to the packed theatre.
“The best piss you can have?” Rosie (Reece Lyons) asks the audience. “Obviously, it’s the pre-emptive one. You know, the one where you wee before you really need to go.”
It becomes clear that Rosie has locked herself in the bathroom and is waiting for it to be safe before venturing back out. The men outside are intimidating her because she’s a trans woman.
Overflow puts living life as at trans person into the microcosm of the club toilet. It’s a nuanced look at what this space is to all women: a place of safety, friendships and joy. It’s also a space that continues to be under transphobic attack.
The show is nothing short of a masterpiece. While Overflow is a hard-hitting tale of the struggles trans feminine people face when just trying to live their life, it is also genuinely funny and quietly hopeful. Above all else it’s accessible, especially to the cis and/or straight allies watching the show.
In fact, a highlight of the performance is Rosie’s series of monologues towards the end of the show, when she speaks directly to cis/straight allies to ask what they are doing to help them when trans people aren’t there to see it.
Not only is it Travis’ writing and Debbie Hannan’s direction that makes this a must-watch but the set, sound, and lighting design too. And, of course, Reece Lyons playing Rosie.
Once Reece takes the stage, it’s impossible to focus on anything but her. She takes Travis’ script off the page and makes it the must-see show of the year. Reece performs each line with expertise, care, refreshing energy and pure talent.
Overflow is a call for society to help marginalised groups including trans people, rather than just being passive bystanders to violence and bigotry. It’s an expertly crafted piece of theatre that asks more of cis people at a time when almost one trans person is killed each day (in 2020, at least 350 trans people were killed). But at the same time as being a call for society to do more to protect vulnerable groups, it portrays the camaraderie of women’s toilets in a way that feminine people and women, both trans and cis, can relate to. It’s a story of hope – but only if change happens now.
Overflow is on at Bush Theatre 7 September – 9 October. For more info and tickets visit bushtheatre.co.uk or call the Box Office on 020 8743 5050
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