Review: Overflow (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Sep 9 – 25, 2022
Playwright: Travis Alabanza
Director: Dino Dimitriadis
Cast: Janet Anderson
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
For an hour in a nightclub toilet, Rosie shares her thoughts, reflections and memories. It is perhaps not surprising that she has so much on her mind, being a young trans woman, who has had to navigate everything in life with extraordinary dexterity. It is perhaps not surprising also, that we find Rosie stuck in a public loo, hiding from the constant presence of threatening forces on the outside, as trans people remain some of the world’s most persecuted.

Travis Alabanza’s Overflow is a passionate one-person show, very much of our times. Trans people have always existed, but with the confluence of activism and technology, we find ourselves with a new voice, discovering access that had hitherto been unavailable. Alabanza’s verbosity represents floodgates being finally open, and in Overflow, they talk exhaustively about injustice and struggle, as well as emancipation and inspiration. It is the perspective of a new generation of transness, one filled with jubilation and with anguish.

Alabanza’s keen observations and irrefutable candour, are the ingredients to Overflow‘s immense power and intensity. There is a haphazardness to the work, as an inevitable result of the conceit, involving a person in the midst of trauma trying to find coherence, but under the directorship of Dino Dimitriadis, those fragmentations turn poetic, for a theatrical experience that is perhaps unexpectedly beautiful, in its expressions of frustration, fear and fury.

Janet Anderson plays Rosie with exceptional commitment, and irrepressible sass. It is an exhilarating performance, highly convincing with her depiction of challenges faced by trans communities everywhere. Delivering poignancy at select key moments, Anderson’s vulnerability is perhaps slightly too sparingly mobilised, although the intention of portraying Rosie as self-possessed and spirited, is certainly sagacious.

Flawlessly designed, this production of Overflow is an unequivocal treat for the eyes and ears. Set design by Dimitriades uses the claustrophobic scenario to create a tight enclosure, so that our attention is always kept sharply in focus. Costuming by Jamaica Moana conveys the precise era of where we are right now, along with Rosie’s brassy youthfulness. Lights by Benjamin Brockman are an astonishing pleasure, invoking the exuberance of club life, along with its dangerous and foreboding sides, to connect with our complex and contradictory instinctual responses. Sound and music are precisely and imaginatively rendered by Danni A. Espositol, who works intricately with Alabanza’s text, to amplify our emotional reactions for every detail of the play, in an exploration of humanity at its fundamental levels.

With new freedoms, come new forms of retaliation. In some ways, trans and gender non-conforming people have in recent years, found more room to be, but it seems our adversaries are concurrently triggered, and emboldened. Where we had previously felt the palpability of potential threat, that lurking sense of menace has turned into substantiated violence, most notably in places like North America, where more than one trans person is being murdered every day, keeping in mind that we are only an estimated 1.5% of the general population.

It is a legitimate worry that our numbers are too small, to be able to change enough hearts and minds, for the revolution to be completed. The creativity and fortitude we possess however, allow us to reach not one person at a time, but the masses, on the stage and on infinite internet screens. We are the wisest and the most captivating, and in Overflow it is clear that our message of defiance is not to be denied.