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Monday 08 April 2019

Interview: Elijah W Harris Talks Rotterdam & Positives Of Seeing Trans & Non-Binary People On Stage @ Theatre Royal Brighton

'Trans stories told by trans people are vital to the progression of theatre', says actor Elijah W Harris, who stars in Rotterdam, at Theatre Royal Brighton, this week.

Written by acclaimed playwright Jon Brittain, co-creator of Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho, writer of A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) and staff writer on The Crown, Rotterdam is a bittersweet comedy about gender, sexuality and being a long way from home.

Elijah W Harris is a London based actor and writer working in film and theatre, and has has contributed to Dazed Beauty and Ladybeard Magazine, writing about his experiences as a trans man.

Q/ Tell us about Rotterdam.

Elijah W Harris: Rotterdam is a play about a couple navigating their relationship when one of them, Adrian, comes out as a trans man. It is a lot to do with identity and how one's identity can grow and shift, and the impact that has on those around us.

Q/ What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

Elijah W Harris: Well I hope they enjoy it! Jon Brittain's writing is very nuanced but has an everyday feel to it, which makes it so easy to see yourself in the characters and their words, whatever the subject matter.

It has definitely made me think about my relationships and how I communicate so I hope it does that for the audience also.

And of course, I hope that the content plus seeing trans and non-binary people on stage will encourage people to embrace the trans people around them. And allow the LGBTIA+ audience members to feel seen, because it doesn't happen often enough!

Q/ Rotterdam has had a very successful life in London. How do you think the show will be perceived by audiences around the country?

Elijah W Harris: I am so excited to be touring this show; it often feels like everything happens in London and it is easy for creatives to become London-centric. I am from Leicester and seeing this show growing up would have changed my life, and I am not just saying that. Of course, the internet connects anyone at any time but seeing someone like you, telling a story like yours, in the flesh, in your space? Well there is truly nothing like it.

Q/ Tell us about you and your story.

Elijah W Harris: I grew up in Leicester and moved to London when I was 18 for university. I never really knew where I fit within society and struggled with my mental health for a long time. I started to understand that I needed to transition at some point along the way, between acting and seemingly endless bar jobs. I began medically transitioning about 3 years ago - transitioning doesn't solve all of life's problems but now I walk down the street with a straight back and my eyes up.

Q/ Did you always want to act?

Elijah W Harris: Yes, though I was also really into sports growing up and played pretty much anything I could. I remember playing one of Fat Sam's gang in Bugsy Malone at High School and just feeling like that made a lot of sense.

When I moved to London, I got a degree because I thought that was the most sensible option - I would be able to get a "proper job". I didn't know anything about drama schools and I certainly didn"t think that I was welcome in a place like that. 

They can't teach that confidence or entitlement in state schools that private education seems to create. You are automatically on the back foot, feeling like an intruder somehow.

Q/ Any advice for budding actors?

Elijah W Harris: Be kind to yourself, the industry can be hard and sometimes not very nice, so make up for that by giving yourself time and be patient. Learn to lift yourself up, make your own contacts and create opportunities for yourself.

If you or your experiences are not represented on stage or TV then create something, be the change, be the person that you needed to see growing up.

Q: What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

Elijah W Harris: This show has so so so much heart and is a lot of fun. It won't be like anything else you've seen or will see for a while so don't miss it!

Rotterdam is played at Theatre Royal Brighton earlier this week. 

by: Mike Cobley




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