Who Needs a Chamber Pot When You’re Already in a Bathroom? Chamber Pot Opera Reviewed

Monday 15 April, The Playhouse, Sydney Opera House. Or rather, the Ladies Bathroom. An unconventional but highly appropriate space for grand opera!

Chamber Pot Opera is finally in the most prestigious opera house in the country, performing for select groups seated cosily in the central space, or whatever you might call that area between the rows of cubicles in a public bathroom.

From sell out seasons in Sydney at the Queen Vic Building, and the Adelaide and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals as well as a summer festival in St Petersburg, Russia, to performances in 2019 in the littlest room in the Big House. I was very excited to be finally seeing the show.

I had loved the whole concept of the show from the moment I had heard about it. I love turning theatre on it’s head, shaking people out of their complacency, making them think.

The creators Thomas De Angelis and Clemence Williams have made opera not only accessible to a wider audience but also more relevant, by taking well known opera numbers and weaving them into their story line. The clever thing is that the original context of the songs also speaks to the contemporary issues being explored. And the Ladies lav is a perfect metaphor for the connection between women through sufferance of problems of gender, power and vulnerability. The bathroom is a great leveller. Everyone does the same “stuff” in a public toilet, whether it’s a pee or makeup or an emotional breakdown.

Clemence directs as ably as she creates, and the choreography makes full use of the space including cubicles. While there are only a handful of spoken words, you are never in doubt of the thrust of the narrative. Surtitles were projected on the wall, giving the English text of the songs. But I didn’t really need them, as the direction of the performers made the meaning crystal clear.

The performers were fabulous. Jessica Westport, Sally Alrich-Smythe and Britt Lewis gave appropriately “large” performances while making the pathos real. Fabulous singing too, let’s not forget to say, sensitively accompanied by Darcy Gayford.

The music was designed to have mass appeal. Even those for whom music comes in the form of playlists on Spotify, the “set list” was easy on the ear. From a rather rambunctious Harbanera from Bizet’s Carmen to a joyous Flower Duet (in this case trio) from Delibe’s Lakme, with toilet paper symbolic of freedom attained and a delightful abandon, the songs were so appropriate and so genuinely entertaining.

A great evening’s entertainment and at 40 minutes or so, there was no need to think about that loo stop… at least not until the end of show and in a “real” bathroom…