-by Isabella Edquist
Smith’s Alternative Bookshop
Tuesday and Friday March 18 and 21
You wouldn’t necessarily expect a large crowd to turn out to see a short play set entirely in a public toilet. The slightly older than usual crowd of thirtysomethings, however, arrived at Smith’s Alternative Bookshop early and keen, excited about kicking off You Are Here’s Friday drama bill with a touch of toilet humour. The Throne Rules, put on by Shatter Collective, written by Morgan Little and directed by Casey Elder, was a flash-in-the-pan piece of wickedly funny theatre. Meg, played by Lauren Klein, feeling rather strung out by her hot date, heads to the loo. Unfortunately, the constant stream of other people, a grotty cubicle, a pesky bagel, constant phone calls and some performance anxiety only seem to ramp up her nervousness. We’ve all had to make use of a grubby lavatory situation, and we’ve all had our nerves frazzled by an intense first date; throw the two scenarios at one rather finicky character and you have a show that was at once absurd and relatable.
The post-work drinks at Smith’s definitely did the trick; laughter flowed readily from the first lines and soon we were all snickering at the convoluted situation (and perhaps even a little ashamed recognition). Meg operates via a series of increasingly pedantic rules, and Klein’s prim use of the few props available to convey this, such as the obsessive dropping of hand sanitiser, rearranging the toilet paper to be hanging the ‘right way’ or gingerly lowering herself onto the toilet seat, set up the comedic time bombs for the show’s hilarious climax. The set, designed by Samantha Pickering and comprising a backlit square frame draped with translucent white crepe paper strips, and Japanese screen next to it, proved the basis for much of the physical comedy of show, as the shadows of other toilet-users (played by other Shatter actors) participated in increasing amounts of mischief, much to Meg’s prudish horror.
Due to the seating arrangements of the venue, it was hard to view the entirety of the stage action while Klein was seated, and the constant coming and going of people left some parts hard to hear. This was a real shame, as the script by Little boasted a surprising amount of nuance for such a short and funny piece. The audience responded especially well to Meg’s gradation from a repressed “Frick!” to a much more honest “Fucking bloody hell!”, an arc which mirrored her journey from prude to person who would not be uncomfortable pashing in a public bathroom. The ending was very swift, rather neat but sweet. Appreciation of the scatological may vary, but rest assured that The Throne Rules had as much heart as it did low-brow humour.
Isabella Edquist has been writing and dreaming in Canberra for a long time now, and is just waking up. In a past life she was an editor of Block Creative Journal and wrote her honours thesis on mess theory and the novels of Angela Carter. She now works with pictorial and moving image collections at AIATSIS and is completing her Master of Anthropology at ANU. After eating up so much Canberra goodness for so long, she decided it was time to give something back and share the You Are Here love around, and a little Papercuts reviewer was born.