Chamber Pot Opera

★★★
musicals review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Chamber Pot Opera
Published 13 Aug 2017

Aussie company BonTom have taken up residence in a tiny bathroom and made its walls ring with some of opera’s best-loved tunes. An all-female cast of three wittily repurpose romantic classics to a modern setting, using them as the soundtrack to queer online dating flirtations or bathroom makeover sessions.

Up close, the music has a new magic. Jessica Westcott's beautiful voice soars as she delivers a performance of 'Habanera' that's so fiery you can almost see the mirrors steaming up. Sally Alrich-Smythe and Britt Lewis's lighter voices would be lost in a concert hall, but they bring a freshness to their performances as they dance, cry and gossip their way through a collection of romantic arias.

The 12-strong audience are packed in tightly, cast as voyeurs spying on these three swooning, sorrowing young women. Director Clemence Williams uses the space inventively: the trio sing an arrangement of Delibes' famous 'Flower Duet' from inside the cubicles, scrawl lipstick on the mirrors, or festoon the bathroom’s ceiling with wreaths of bog roll.

The first 20 minutes are brilliantly watchable. What’s missing after that is a consistently clear, believable narrative arc. Alrich-Smythe transforms from suicidal domestic violence victim to empowered woman, a trajectory that feels a little tasteless in the context of the evening's frothy tone. 

Still, this performance is pretty special for the way it condenses the huge emotional power of opera into a teeny-tiny space. I left with my ears ringing, and my heart full.