A student musical set in a gents toilet is exactly the kind of wacky “concept” that has non-Fringegoers (and some veterans) rolling their eyes, the sort of thing the Daily Mash like to satirise. But the six strong team of performers (five actors and the “keyboard guy”) of Car Crash Productions get away with it. There’s less lavatorial humour than you might imagine, as instead it focuses on the trials and tribulations of a nameless toilet attendant, a man who sees and hears everything, solves problems, heals relationships, yet who is barely paid the time of day, let alone a quid for a spritz of deodorant.
Sean Dale proves himself to be a bit of a star in the lead role, performing with a panache that’s beyond the confines of this tiny studio. We’re instantly engaged with this kind, but put-upon chap, who always has a smile and a helpful word. He’s making the best of his lowly position, taking a pride in his job that it doesn’t deserve. That jolly facade masks a simple desire to be acknowledged and appreciated.
A mix of American and English accents make it hard to situate this particular public convenience though. The ladsladslads moments suggest a bog-standard English nightclub; the girls interloping in the gents (which also brings in a discussion about gender-neutral toilets) say American high school; and the bow-tied lead wouldn’t look out of place in an upmarket wine bar.
The opening number fixates on stage fright of a non-thespian variety, and from there we cover a range of common WC scenarios – a drink spillage that requires novel use of a handdryer, girls fretting about their hair in the mirror, people hiding in cubicles. It stops short of farce – it’s vignettes rather than a continuous narrative – although there is a peering over the cubicle moment that ends in a toilet-y accident.
A number singing us through the history of the lavatory would work as scene setting in a longer piece, but here it delays the nuts-and-bolts of the attendant’s story. There’s definitely scope for more character development within the hour. In particular, there’s a scene (a vision, maybe?) that the attendant has with his lover which cries out for more. It would also add depth if the other characters developed round him. The characters tend to serve the vignettes, not the other way round.
It must also be said that there are a few bum notes and missed harmonies. Regardless, they go for a big showstopper at the end. It’s not the slickest of performances, but it’s the right tone to end on. Sad toilet guy is a very workable idea, and with some reshaping of the scenarios he faces would be even better.