I’ve always been interested in bathrooms.
It started when I was at uni studying a creative arts degree. In one film subject, my lecturer was talking about the horror genre, in which I had no interest in at the time but later developed an intense appreciation for. Why, he asked us, were so many death scenes in horror movies set in bathrooms?
Answers ranged from “because the contrast of red blood on white tiles is visually striking” to “because film directors are perverts”. He agreed, but crucially added, “it’s because a bathroom is where people are at their most vulnerable.”
And if I’ve learned anything in my 28 years of life, it’s that nothing is scarier than vulnerability.
But HOT MESS, which is set inside a bathroom, is not a horror show. It’s a comedy show. Because if I’ve learned nothing else in my 28 years of life, it’s that there is nothing funnier than revealing your vulnerabilities to others. Because guess what? 99 per cent of people feel exactly the same way (don’t quote me on that; I have done zero research into shared human vulnerability, so please don’t come for me, psych majors).
As a company, The General Public has always aimed to make light of the mundane.
We take our everyday thoughts and anxieties and hang them up to dry on a stage. We don’t write comedy. We write truth. As clichéd as that sounds, we’ve found this approach to our work to be quite successful (humble brag, but we’ve received a slew of four and five-star reviews, and an Adelaide Fringe Best Emerging Artist Weekly Award). A lot of people think of performing as getting on stage and putting a mask on. I like to think of our work as getting on stage and taking the mask off.
Bathrooms are rife with vulnerability and anxiety, especially for women.
It’s where we decide whether to conform to patriarchal expectations of beauty (to shave or not to shave, that is the real question). It’s where we deal with women’s “luxury” issues such as menstruation (but God forbid we ever talk about it outside a bathroom).
It’s where we obsess over our naked bodies and it’s where we go to cry. It’s also a space that can be quite toxic, so we wanted to take a place that is usually so private and make it public for a good ol’ dose of cathartic release.
This show started in the form of a 10-minute show we did for Brisbane’s Short + Sweet festival in 2012 when we were fresh-faced uni students (and before we formed the collective The General Public). That show was set inside the bathroom of a share house while four friends got ready to go out. This version of the show is set inside the public bathroom of an inner west Sydney bar.
As a comedy writer, I wanted the opportunity to explore the relationship between strangers who meet for the first time. And what better setting than the forced intimacy of a public toilet?
When we started developing HOT MESS, it was a series of disconnected scenes. We wanted to look at all the different “types” of people and things that could happen in this space. I had also just returned from studying at The Second City in Chicago and was having a real hard-on for sketch comedy.
As we looked closer, it became clear that there were some very strong relationships emerging between seemingly different characters. As an ensemble we realised that HOT MESS was, at its core, a story about the different kinds of relationships between women.
We have new romances and bad breakups, friendships that are just starting out and ones that are slowly dying. We reveal the different interactions that happen between four very different women in the bathroom over the course of an evening.
HOT MESS is a collaboration with some new and old faces.
Collaboration is at the heart of how we develop new shows, and it’s like a big ol’ therapy session every time we get together. This show includes two-thirds of The General Public (myself and Courtney Ammenhauser as actors/co-devisors and FYI, we’ve been BFFs since we were six), and our talented friends Alicia Dulnuan-Demou (actor/co-devisor) and Tasha O’Brien (director/co-devisor), with whom we collaborated on our show Europe Won’t Fix You in 2016. It also includes our friend Jenna Suffern (actor/co-devisor) in her theatrical debut. Jenna is an emerging stand-up comedian, she’s very funny and we are so excited to be working with her.
Being vulnerable is not something that comes naturally to people. I guess because it’s often considered a sign of weakness.
I say fuck that. Let’s stop being so afraid of vulnerability. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.