Friday, August 28, 2015

Edinburgh Reflection: Eau de Toilette

Img Source: Edinburgh Fringe Website

One woman. And a toilet. ‘It may appear that I am staring into toilet water. And I am staring into toilet water. But what I am seeing is not toilet water. What I am seeing is an ocean…’

Eau de Toilette is a charming solo show about "a melancholy toilet attendant trapped in the lavatorie of commission-based despair." The show, which comes in at slightly under a half hour, weaves together monologues, dance, projections and Disney princess songs to create a bizarre dreamworld of a toilet.

The character was an immigrant of unspecified origin who had dreamed of toilets as a little girl and come to this country in search of one. Five years later still in the toilet, where the lights don't work and the plumbing backs up, she finds that the dream wasn't quite all it was cracked up to be. "You can choose to smell the perfume or you can choose to smell the shit." With her table of lollypops and perfumes she playes off all the classic phrases of the infamous (usually male) nightclub toilet attendants: "No armanni, no punani," "No spray, no lay," and so on and so forth (there's a comprehensive list here.)

The huge toilet seat on the wall behind her opened to reveal a projection screen that showed not just the occasionally unsavory contents of the toilet but hopes and dreams of places far away... to which she literally flushed herself at the end while singing "part of your world" from the little mermaid, having just emerged from a most ingenious mermaid tail of paper towels.

After the show I got to chat briefly with Emily Bee, the writer and performer. She told me that it started when she was writing in a kebab shop and got obsessed with the toilets. She also said me that she often gets cast as an immigrant, so she wanted to reclaim that role and make it her own... a bit Borat, but less slapstick.

The piece is quite fun as the surreal experience it currently is, but there would be a lot of potential for this piece to develop into something quite political. When she talked early in the piece about growing up dreaming about the toilet I was half expecting it to delve deeper into global sanitation... the country-less immigrant could easily be one of the 2.5 billion still waiting for access to proper sanitation, going out to do her business in the fields at 3am so as not to be seen. There are copious opportunities to look at the taken-for-granted status of the toilet and how its users consequently treat it.

At one point the character wistfully speaks of having been engaged to be married, which made me think of India's No Loo, No I Do campaign... perhaps she chose a toilet (and no husband) over a husband with no toilet? Come to think of it, "No Loo, no I do" almost sounds like one of those nightclub toilet attendant phrases.

It's playing for one more day at the fringe... but would be well deserving of a revival for World Toilet Day in November!

Image source: Twitter @IAmEmilyBee


Thistle King James (Venue 438)
15:00 through 29 August

1 comment: