When was the last time you had a bath? Mine was over a year ago. When was the last time you had a bath in view of an audience? Never. Siobhan O’Loughlin provides a different answer. This is because on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday evening O’Loughlin had a bath in front of twenty people in Broken Bone Bathtub. What’s more, the bathtub was outdoors.
O’Loughlin’s performance was part of the Let’s Stay in Tonight segment of the You Are Here festival. This segment focused on the intersection between private lives and communal experience by juxtaposing theatrical pieces and residential spaces. Set in a residential home in the suburb of O’Connor, Let’s Stay in Tonight hosted various acts throughout the house, including the front yard, kitchen and garage. On Saturday evening, the line-up comprised of Crepuscular, an acrobatic show, ANU Experimental Music Studio: At Home, and Broken Bone Bathtub.
Broken Bone Bathtub was inspired by O’Loughlin’s experience recovering after a bike accident in 2014. After this accident, in which she broke her hand, she mustered up the courage to ask friends if she could use their bathtubs. O’Loughlin’s piece discusses the vulnerability, sadness and gratitude that she felt during this time. Regularly performed to an audience of 6-8 people, or however many could fit into the bathroom, O’Loughlin used the space to ask audience members to help her wash and share their own experiences.
O’Loughlin’s tub was located in the backyard where audience members crouched around the bathtub on milk crates and blankets. It rained intermittently throughout the performance, resulting in audience members having to hold up umbrellas and huddle underneath tarps supplied by You Are Here volunteers. While many feared the performance would be cancelled, O’Loughlin and the audience continued on. It was only when the rain began to seep through the tarps that it was decided to relocate the performance indoors.
What the rain highlighted was the realism of O’Loughlin’s storytelling. She paused intermittingly to ask about the rain and if everyone was okay. Between her pausing and continuing her memoir there was no change in her demeanour. This encouraged the perception that she was being genuine in her performance rather than playing a theatrical persona. The rain emphasised O’Loughlin’s resilient, caring and charismatic personality.
O’Loughlin delivered an intimate performance. Throughout Broken Bone Bathtub, she asked audience members to help her bathe. Her own nakedness and the honesty of her reflections inspired the audience to share their own intimate experiences. Individuals discussed their own broken bones, reflected on whom they might call if they needed help, and shared the last time they’d cried amongst other people. O’Loughlin facilitated these intimate confessions with great skill and expertly entwined them into her own story.
O’Loughlin’s courage to be naked in a bathtub, her willingness to expose herself to vulnerability and sadness was inspiring and worth getting caught in the rain for. The honest and self-reflective nature of her questions turned the piece from an individual performance into a dialogue, as if we were all naked in the bathtub together.
Image: Sarah Walker
Rose Maurice has a happy life surrounded by words. Rose graduated from the ANU with a degree in Literature and History and has worked in a bookshop and now works at the National Library of Australia. An amateur in performance poetry and short stories, Rose has a tendency to write poems on the back of receipts and in the covers of novels she is reading. She is happy to be writing reviews again for the You Are Here festival.