Review of ‘Overflow’, play by Travis Alabanza

“A pile of steaming cack!” They Lies They Tell

So, Travis Havaburga has written a new play ‘Overflow‘. It’s set in the ladies and is all about ‘who is allowed in and who is kept out’ of them. This is Havaburga’s cultural piss de resistance at the attempt of terfs to rule the world! (Or something.)

Travis doesn’t star in the play though, they’re merely the one what wrote it.

The Star

No, the star of the ‘one-woman show’ is Reece Lyons, author and performer of the poem ‘I Am A Woman And I Have A Penis’. I’ll give you a few moments.

Movingly performed with the backing of an entire choir, who ooh and aah with every word, Reece tells us about all the reasons why he doesn’t pass as a woman. It is because he is too tall? Or too much like a supermodel? Or is his Adam’s Apple too obvious? Or his hands (which are like plates)? Or his lack of tits? Or is it his ‘flawlessly applied make-up, which let’s be honest none of your’s looked as good as this’?

Perfect casting for Havaburga’s thinly veiled political rant against women-only toilets!

In the beginning …

… I had originally planned to see the show in person and for the first time felt desperately relieved about mandatory mask-wearing. I planned to wear an extra big one to laugh behind, but then third lockdown arrived and we are all, yet again, forced into an online space.

‘Club toilets have taught me more about sisterhood than any book I’ve read since’
Oh fuck off you wanker!

Setting the scene – the bog

So I ran an entirely unscientific survey on Twitter. I wanted to know how people felt about other same sex people hanging out in the bogs during a visit. Roughly half do not feel comfortable when others are ‘hanging out’ in the toilet (with women being slightly more relaxed). So I’m not sure really why Havaburga has identified the loo as a place of refuge and fun. It certainly wouldn’t be if he turned up in his size 12 drama queen high heels.

The play begins

Rosie enters the stage, which is a toilet, and runs round and round to heavy techno beat, goes over to the sink, looks in the mirror, starts shaking his hands out – what a drama! Then the music cuts and Rosie stands, panting audibly, facing us. Con-fron-tational!

‘The best piss you can have, obviously it’s the pre-emptive one’ …

… are the first words we hear. What the fuck is pre-emptive pissing? you ask. Rosie spends the next 6 minutes telling us. It’s important and Rosie learned to do it.

Just no. No one does a big fucking piss before they are ready to do a big fucking piss.

At the end of the pre-emptive piss rant Rosie is disturbed by the banging on the toilet door and makes a scared face but shrieks ‘Are you not bored yet boys?!’ And then we realise Rosie is just a fragile trans girl, alone in the ladies, screaming about pre-emptive pissing, and boasting about his superior pelvic floor muscle control.

‘After the second time I got roughed up in the toilet’

Rosie’s mate Charlotte promises to protect Rosie from ending up with panda eyes by offering to help when Rosie is getting beaten up by men in the gents (offered no woman ever).

This gives Reece to show us his ‘range’ as he becomes Charlotte for us, which entails talking in a catty common voice and saying ‘babe’ a lot. We learn that Charlotte is a big fake, she pretends she is a big trans ally, but it’s all just so she can boast about it for show at the next dinner party. Poor Rosie loves her as a friend but is also frustrated by her superficiality.

In the club toilet

We’re introduced to another female character, one who is unnamed ‘cos Rosie never asked her name. This big hearted lady demands that Rosie doesn’t use the gents, nay Rosie must come in the loos with her and her friends! The woman tells Rosie that she has big shoulders too, which she got from her dad – ‘the only thing I got from him, the useless son of a prick-dick’ (Havaburga has an amazing knack with infantile dialogue).

Rosie still has stubble, isn’t confident enough to use the ladies, but the nice mad woman (whose accent goes round the country and up and down several octaves as Reece struggles to control his performance) introduces Rosie to her friends and is suddenly subject to a beauty consultation. Because that’s what always happens in the bog in clubs. Especially when men with stubble come in.

‘I don’t care what’s on your passport, it’s about energy,’ the Irish/Scottish/Cornish woman tells Rosie.

Then Rosie is disturbed by a knocking on the door and screams: ‘You don’t have to stay out there you know, there’s another woman’s bathroom two minutes away. You can leave.’ So not only is Rosie bothered by ‘orrible cis guys, but there are also terfs on the rampage outside his bog. What a shitter!

Time for a flashback

In which Rosie remembers being blamed for flooding the toilets at primary school. It was so bad, I think if I had been there in person I definitely would have had my face in my hands at this point, silently rocking.

Reece becomes Mr Raven, the PE teacher, who investigates the toilet flooding (should have left it to the school caretaker really, what a prick-dick). Travis has given Mr Raven the dialogue of an Irish nun circa 1950 (‘Mary, Christ and all her little donkeys’). And as for the accent, Reece sounds like he doing a tenth-rate impression of the Reverend Ian Paisley, it’s really terrible. (An accent coach was actually employed on the project, so god only knows why they didn’t steer Reece away from a mad shouty frothing at the mouth stereotype.)

Mr Raven raves at Rob (as Rosie was then) to confess to the toilet flooding, but Rosie (who was Rob then) doesn’t reveal if it was but that the suspicion was enough to cast him aside.

Yet more banging at the toilet door by angry unseen figures causes a scene change.

The trans girl who is Rosie’s other bestie (her real bestie, not like that Charlotte who doesn’t really stand up for trans people)

Rosie and V began to transition at the same time. They talk about everything other ‘than the fact that they are trans’. (How very believable in a play which does not leave the issue of gender identity even once.)

Rosie and V looked so fucking good together. Rosie and V met in a toilet, when V tried to come onto Rosie. Rosie shouts out the story of their relationship over deafening loud techno music. Then strobe lighting as Rosie writhes around on the floor, chucks up into the toilet, dances, drinks. Returning to monologue, Rosie tells us about the time that he and V were in the bathroom together in a club and they looked so fucking hot.

This time the scene change is augured by the sound of tweeting outside the bog door – ‘Stop fucking tweeting!’ screams Rosie animally and something about 140 characters (it’s actually 280 and I’m sure Havaberga is aware really) and then Rosie takes some much needed chill pills.

‘I had a manager called on me for taking a piss in the women’s bathroom two months ago’

Rosie previously used to use the women’s bathroom to escape the potential fists of men but now the choice was between a ‘fist or a hug which digs its claws in’. Rosie expected the women in the bathroom to come to his rescue and tell the manager where to go, but the wims didn’t help. Poor Rosie! (Why can’t women just be kind?)

Rosie thinks about the woman whose name he can’t remember – you know the one who called her dad a son of a prick-dick. Rosie wishes he could ring her up to find out if she changed her mind or not (on the toilet issue) but can’t because he doesn’t know her name, much less her phone number. Rosie sits and looks small and scared. Abandoned by a woman she doesn’t even know!

Rosie then becomes V. V doesn’t like Charlotte ‘cos Charlotte ain’t really true ’bout her feelings towards trans people, spesh wiv her squished up face like she smelt a fart. Rosie pleads with V and says that yes Charlotte might not get it but she’s a good person. V says that Charlotte is a transphobe yeah.

More banging on the door of the bog which goes on for a while, causing Rosie to start splashing water from the sink over the toilet floor, throwing things around and toilet paper.

Another tedious bathroom story

Aged 9 Rosie’s parents were at the movies watching one of the Saw movies (you know the graphically violent horror franchise) on their date night, leaving older brothers to look after Rob/Rosie. They showed Rob/Rosie horror movies. Rosie was too scared to go to the bog in case the bogey man was in there or lurking in one of the closets (yes this is heavy handed metaphor). Rosie then runs around the stage shrieking as the lights go low and scary music plays.

Rosie sat in the bathroom for 3 hours worrying about the bogey man and that he wasn’t real and that he wasn’t coming for Rosie and throws sodden toilet paper around the bathroom. Rosie was so scared he sat in the bathroom all night (thought it was 3 hours?) feeling scared about this thing he’d never seen. (I think the message is: please terfs stop worrying about the bogey man he doesn’t exist.)

Rosie begins unrolling toilet roll and winding it around himself (reminiscent of the epic moment in Burgers when Travis bound two burger buns to his chest in defiance).

‘Are you scared of the bogey man somewhere in the closet?’ screams Rosie over a cacophony of noise but even that noise is disrupted again by that banging on the bog door again.

Reece really ramps up the very angry shouting now, literally raving ‘Do you want me to start begging you to leave me alone!’ We hear some bad swears. The knocking continues, in fact, it multiplies. So Rosie stomps around his domain – the bathroom – putting his foot in the loo in defiance.

Men are so hard to look at directly, aren’t they? Men. Like actual men.

Rosie is sat looking lost and hurt.

‘Whatever you think or decided that I am. But I mean like the men who have hurt both of us. Like the men that we protected that young girl from at the rave. […] The actual men. Who have been hurting us over-over-over-and-over again for years. Now that just feels like a flood we don’t know how to control, do we? That feels like too complicated of a fear for us to tackle huh? Like an uphill battle we keep on losing. […] Locking us out feels obtainable, like you’re making headway. Like you’ve pushed through the glass ceiling just enough to cut us with the glass that you broke. […] You make me the boogie man’ [SIC]

I must admit after hearing this two minute aggressive shouty speech I have now changed my mind completely and will, from this moment, be campaigning for trans women to be allowed in female-only spaces while I still have breath in me. Bravx Havaburgx!

‘KARM AHT ME MUMSNET’ rages Reece and starts destructing the set, drawing on the mirror, tiles, the background a cacophony of clanging. Much more angry indistinct shouting and the bathroom is now flooded, sodden toilet roll everywhere. This is exactly who I want in the toilet when I’m having a shit and changing my sanitary towels! Count me in!

A twist

In a development that none of us saw coming, and absolutely none of us care about, we learn that it was really Charlotte (the cis bitch transphobe yeah) who was flooding the toilets at Rosie’s primary school all those years ago.

The significance of this, is that if Charlotte had told Rosie this sooner, then she could have realised that Rosie hated his body too (Charlotte did it to avoid PE).

‘Here I am preparing you for a life of taking the blame’ is what Charlotte was really telling Rosie.

‘If your friends is friends with a transphobe and still hasn’t tried to change her mind, then I guess I guess that makes her a transphobe too. Right?’

A voice message from Charlotte

‘FUCK OFF CHARLOTTE. SHUT THE FUCK. UP. […] every single time you fail to have a backbone around your terf-like guardian goblin girlfriends. […] Not everything is about yooou! My life. My fucking survival. Me trying to stay the fuck alive isn’t all about you. […] What are you doing to ensure that this room is safe?’

More words, posturing, terrible accents, stomping around.

‘Fucking end!’ I screamed

Then loud music started playing, more crashing around on the set, throwing bog roll, breaking the toilet (including taking out the ballcock, bravx! Havaburgx) and then hitting the pipes above and causing a flood.

‘The best piss I can have is obviously the pre-emptive one. It’s the one where I wee before I really need to go. It’s the one I do to remind me, that I am in complete control.’

What was it like?

Woeful. Utterly witless. Not a single laugh. It’s clear that Travis can’t stretch their imagination further than their own gigantic ego since the character of Rosie has so much in common with their own utterly fake persona. On the plus side, Reece Lyons is completely believable as a narcissistic talentless shit bag and the technical aspects of the production are sound.

You can watch Overflow online until the 23 January, but I don’t why you’d want to.

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