A vital exploration into safety and solidarity for the trans community
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGES BY SHARRON WALLACE
It’s a freezing cold tier two December night and the first public performance back at the Bush Theatre in London. Waiting inside is Rosie, pulling at her velvet dress, about to spill the warmth and vulnerability that ensues with Overflow to a socially distanced crowd.
Rosie (performed by Reece Lyons), is a trans woman who has been cornered into a toilet cubicle and is determined not to be rescued by someone else again. While the thuds and bangs burst through the door, she takes us on a tour of the importance the women’s toilets have played in her life. Drunken heart-to-hearts by dirty sinks, the friendships formed and the lessons learned. “Club toilets have taught me more about sisterhood than any book,” Rosie notes as she tells us of times she was met with acceptance and allyship there.
But it’s hard to keep your head above water when you face harassment just for simply existing. Public toilets have always been at the centre of debates around trans rights and there is a depth of lived experience that pours through Rosie’s words as the toilet itself begins to flood all around her.
Written by the acclaimed writer, performer, and one of the UK’s most prominent trans voices, Travis Alabanza, Overflow was written in response to the online discourse surrounding women’s bathrooms, making it the perfect balance of personal fused with political. Speaking to PinkNews, they said: “Over lockdown, I could not believe that – despite a literal global pandemic, an uprising against racialised police brutality, and a tip of another recession – people were still deciding to argue and debate trans lives and spaces.”
Over the course of an hour we are reminded of the thrill that comes with a night out (remember those?!) but also of how unsafe and unwelcoming they can be for those within the trans community. Through a script which is a total triumph, the story delves into a utopia we should be looking towards, where safety takes over suspicion. Smashing the place up, surrounded by the flood and a cigarette in her mouth, Rosie ends the night with pure electricity.
I couldn’t see the look on anyone’s face as we left the theatre, still covered up with our face masks, but from the outpour of love in the room and the standing ovation, I know we all left with a smile.
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