A modern nightmare – a panic attack in the bathroom, and worse yet – no toilet paper. But when your mental health is the cause of your problems, is divine intervention going to help or just make things worse?
People Piss In Here brings this surreal situation to life, as characters Jo and Sam (as played by the affable Crowtown) methodically talk their way through a seemingly regular occurrence in their day-to-day lives – fellow sufferer Sam’s attempts to help Jo recover from a crippling panic attack impeded by the intervention of an overly-helpful saint. A grounding in personal experience ensures the subject matter is handled with sensitivity while remaining entertaining, and as primarily a comedy there’s a down-to-earth look at the power of perseverance, friendship and self-care in overcoming the hurdles faced by sufferers of mental illness – even in the face of the apocalypse.
Though a requirement for the setting, the changing rooms at the Valley Pool work as well as you’d expect for a venue – cramped and obstructive; if you don’t manage to steal a seat near the cubicles early on you’re liable to miss out on a large piece of the visible action. Fortunately the scene eventually moves to a more open space, and even without visual stimulus there’s a lot to gain from the well delivered and witty dialogue. Despite being forced to walk around the audience at times, the cast’s composure and focus gives tangibility to the crafted scene, and audience interaction in later scenes is well received; engaging without shaming.
Overly positive and upbeat, it keeps itself from becoming preachy – despite the appearance of a literal host of angels and the venerable St. Dymphna (patron of neurological disorder) marking an odd turning point for the script. What begins punchy, topical, and engrossing quickly loses steam as it becomes a quasi-religious pop-culture romp. Dymphna’s characterisation doesn’t mesh well within the context of the work, and the focus on her character detracts from the subject matter, reducing the impact of an otherwise cohesive, insightful play. Though still functional for the sake of comedy, the surreal shift feels too broad, too sudden, leaving you reeling and guessing rather than engaged.
That being said, it’s really the only problem with the piece – overall it’s still sharp, funny, and flexible, great performances keeping the work moving steadily along. Recalling the intrigue of hearing a loud discussion in the cubicle next to yours, it keeps you intently listening in on every word – and who knew toilet block acoustics were so good?
Reviewed by Jason Lomas
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 22.