Chamber Pot Opera

Chamber Pot Opera
Created by Keiren Brandt-Sawdy, Thomas De Angelis and Clemence Williams. Directed by Clemence Williams. Playhouse Bathroom, Sydney Opera House. April 11-28, 2019

While seated in the Ladies' Loo, hugged gently on either side by rows of lavvies, staring at the assemblage of sinks and mirrors before me, anticipating what was about to emerge (theatrically) from within this limited space, I couldn't help but be reminded of the famous TV trope known as The Bottle Episode. A bottle episode is usually set in a single location, with a single premise. Seinfeld was famous for them, notably the one in the Chinese restaurant where the cast waited (in vain) to be seated, and also the carpark episode where they wander aimlessly throughout, looking for their car. They pretty much became a staple throughout the show's run. It could be argued that this is a cheap or even easy way to make TV (or theatre for that matter) but the fact is, as an artistic device they actually serve to drill the audience's attention down to the minutiae of each actors' stories and magnify their performances.

Here we have, if not a bottle episode, then surely a bowl episode of what is otherwise a lovely take on classic opera. In fact, this is a 'jukebox' version of an opera, featuring notable classics that even the most anti-opera snob would recognise (and catch themselves swooning at the gorgeous voices of the cast).

Sally Alrich-Smythe, Jessica Westcott and Britt Lewis all work together strongly as diverse characters, with very individual experiences, but with something very important in common.

Their need (possibly to use the loo) but mainly for some intense alone time – and yet, in seeking the space to isolate, they inadvertently paint the most vivid picture of what women do best (when they are at their best...let's forget MAFS for a second) and that's to come together and rally in support of each other at a moment's notice.

Even with complete strangers. The Sisterhood is the message, and the message is spine-tingly sharp thanks to those glorious voices. To elaborate would give too much away and the show is only 30-odd minutes long. Given that the setting is The Smallest Room in The House, one would assume the technical aspects of the show would be found wanting, but far from it. The acoustics are fab, the lighting is atmospheric (thankfully, we're not made too aware of infernal flourescence of the average loo) and the finale literally bursts with colour and a little touch of magic. No wonder it's making waves here and overseas. The faint hint of antiseptic bathroom cleaner was the only reminder, really, that this flamboyant show was taking part in a place normally reserved for modesty. While I can't lay claim to have seen theatre in every conceivable venue, I can at least say, I saw this!

Rose Cooper

Photographer: Phil Erbacher

To keep up with the latest news and reviews at Stage Whispers, click here to like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.