If any play is going to get you talking about boys, it’s this all-female piece from the risque theatre company, Dirty Stop-Out.
Shamelessly confessional and brutally voyeuristic, When Women Wee offers us all an insight into a night in a club’s toilets, urging us to listen in on the gossip and peer at the behaviour that goes on behind closed doors, whether we feel comfortable doing so or not.
Fans of TV series The Smoking Room will find a certain familiarity to this concept. Taking breaks in the toilets as threads in a night-long narrative, playwright Rachel Hirons tells us all we need to know about the dynamic of an evening, inviting us to take snapshots within the night and turn them into a whole.
The set has all the charm of your average club toilet. On stage right, there are two cubicles. True to the exposing nature of the piece, there are no doors, leaving the actors to mime out attempts at privacy or crawl under invisible barriers. On the other side of the stage, there is a sink complete with an imaginary mirror, which slices across the forth wall like a pane of one-way glass. This invisible prop is an effective device, allowing us to see in without restriction and providing insightful posing opportunities to those on the other side.
The play’s setting may initially seem limiting, but through the little exchanges that are thrown between the woman, we learn a lot about the drinks on offer, the attractive barmen and the relaxed door policy. From the waves of popular music that briefly follow each new character onto the stage, we are also given a firm indication of the mood outside.
Between the first round and the stumble home, a sizable variety of women enter the toilets, played by five actors so versatile that their closing bows seem to expose a work of illusion. Armed with the most impressive collection of wigs since Amadeus, each member of the cast flickers between characters, bringing a rich yet cheekily stereotypical assortment of female identities.
Aside from the vibrant honesty that recalls all the conversations you should never have overheard in public toilets, the naturalistic quality comes from how no character overstays her welcome. Through this, Hirons has sculpted a reality from caricature. Stereotyped, and one-dimensional, most of the identities are simple. We meet a pregnant drunk, an Essex chav and a grungy singleton, but the play’s casual setting and fast pace not only permit these thin portrayals, but enable them to enrich the humour and reality of the piece.
Against these cameos, one group of women make repeated trips to the bathroom. At first these girls make an unlikely friendship circle, but their relationships are developed and their life stories gradually become enriched. While the play never gets too heavy-handed, these girls provide a vehicle for delving into more serious discussions, and this is done with familiar, balanced wisdom. Unfortunately, like most nights out, When Women Wee suffers a bit of a lull as we near last orders, but this increasingly likeable group of friends is certainly enough to maintain a certain level of energy throughout.
On the whole, When Women Wee is a beautifully light-hearted exploration of the psychology of club culture and the mentality of sticking together. Powered by brief appearances that offer tiny windows into its characters’ lives, this is – most importantly – a brash, vulgar and bloody inconsiderate ode to friendship.
Review first published at A Younger Theatre