Chamber Pot Opera is a story of three women who meet by chance in a public bathroom. Given their own agency, the experiences of these modern, realistic women challenge the out-dated female roles of traditional operas – witches, bitches and breeches – and the whole thing's performed in a real bathroom at Assembly Hall.
First to enter is a woman who is clearly in an abusive relationship, examining her bruises and singing about love that has gone wrong. As she opens up a bottle of pills, she is interrupted in her suicide bid by the next arrival. Bursting open the door, the next arrival, a newly promoted executive, is triumphant – and perhaps more than a little drunk on the champagne she has with her. She in turn is interrupted in her revelry by a queer woman dashing into the bathroom, attempting to regain her composure after a date in which she is terrified that she has come on too strong.
The music is drawn from existing operas; the original meanings of the songs are neatly updated to fit the scenario at hand, without the need to change the compositions. It's a great introduction to the music for people who may not know much about the genre, but it's also performed with enough integrity to avoid alienating aficionados. The singing is exemplary, and the acoustics in the bathroom are fantastic. The music fills the space, immersing the audience without overpowering them.
Subtitles are projected above the actresses’ heads on to the wall of the bathroom, which is just one example of how well the unconventional setting is used. All of the limited space is utilised, with each of the stalls being brought into the action, as well as the sinks and mirrors and a seated area by the hand dryers. The props are all items that the women have brought with them – plus copious amounts of toilet roll, which the cast use to dress the set as part of their performance. The only departure from this realism is a bubble machine, which it worth it for the way it adds to the whimsy of one of the songs.
At only 45 minutes, the performance is short, but the time is well-used and the story is fully developed and realised. It would have been impossible to concentrate for much longer in any case, given the inherent discomfort of so many people being crammed into such a small space. Aside from the audience (a maximum of 12), there are the three actresses, a pianist plus their electric piano, and a theatre technician all tightly squeezed into a three-stall bathroom.
Overall, Chamber Pot Opera is an intriguing show, which successfully uses its gimmicky performance space to challenge the traditional roles assigned to women.