A few weeks ago I read, in The Sydney Morning Herald, about an opera that was going to be performed in what could only be considered a very unusual setting: the Level 2 ladies’ loo at the beautiful Queen Victoria Building (affectionately known as the QVB).
A troupe of young women, who call themselves The Chamber Pot Opera, had put together a story which is set in a ladies’ loo, and whose narrative involves the melodies of a number of popular arias from well known operas. For the duration of the performance the audience – with a maximum number of 26, variously seated or standing – could include men as well as women.
It sounded too good to resist, and I booked seats for myself and my partner.
And having gone a few nights ago, I can tell you that it is both a very different and a rather lovely experience, if you enjoy beautiful singing by three very enterprising young women who are raising money to get their group to the Edinburgh Festival.
The use of the loo is worked in perfectly to a theme of three women, strangers to each other, who happen to be there at the same time, and who help each other through tricky times for two of them. As promised, it consists mainly of a series of luscious and very familiar arias, accompanied by the fourth member of the group, an accomplished (female) keyboard player.
As one perceptive woman behind me commented after it was over, it has shades of the classic old film The Women, which also only comprised women performers and – similarly – could not be considered a comedy despite having many humorous moments. Both productions covered some difficult or tricky situations that some women of their respective days have had to face.
More contemporaneously, there is some similarity to the issues raised in the book and TV series Big Little Lies, which comprises mainly women as the main characters.
I did wonder how it was possible to fit the full house audience of 26 into its unusual venue, and didn’t realise that it was because it wasn’t in the beautiful vintage loo that is well known, but a much larger one (that I’d never seen) – with a big open empty central space – on Level 2.
We both enjoyed it, and also a stroll afterwards through the rediscovered delights of the QVB. And while we talked about the performance, one of the biggest surprises was the demographic of the audience. Twenty five out of the 26 were people around our age. And while on the one hand the absence of the younger generation was a bit puzzling, it was a very encouraging sign that older people are very much up for braving a winter’s evening for the fun of taking a chance on something a bit different!
The good news for young and old is that the show will go on, until 22nd July.