Michael Fowler Centre Foyer, Ladies Toilets, Wellington

20/02/2008 - 22/02/2008

NZ Fringe Festival 2008

Production Details

Public toilets – exposed!

Barriers will be broken down, clothes will be removed, comfort zones will be annihilated. All the senses will be engaged in this refreshingly real new performance piece, which makes the bathroom its stage and the audience part of its set. 

Engaged invites the audience to intrude on the awkward interactions of polar opposites, the sordid activities of the sexually and criminally corrupt, moments of deeply personal pain and the downfall of those lacking intelligence.

Farce and adversity are weaved through the jarring plot, which includes an obscene extravaganza of lesbians, leg shaving, angst and pork ribs. Some scenes are of a disturbing nature, so the audience are advised to arrive with a strong stomach, an open-mind and mature outlook. 

Bathroom security has featured prominently in the news lately, just beginning to expose the potential of public toilets as centres of danger and entertainment (and not just for George Michael). In light of this, reality will be a key component to the play’s success. Not only is the play staged in a real bathroom, without the aid of fancy lighting or sets but also, many of the episodes are based in reality. Furthermore, because the actors are in such close proximity to the audience, their performances are executed with that kind of subtlety one rarely experiences in live theatre. 

Writer and director Mara Gold was inspired by the multifarious uses public bathrooms have provided for her over the years, "A public bathroom is essentially a private haven in a public space. You can be having a really intense moment, but that intensity is restricted to a cubicle of one or two metres squared."  She hopes that the play will force people to think twice about what is going on behind closed doors. She muses, "There is only a thin piece of plywood separating you from whatever is happening in the cubicle next to you – be it tragic, illegal, sexual or just plain amusing. Now, that’s a disconcerting thought!" 

The final piece will be a collaboration between the director and cast of young actors, created at the workshop style rehearsals. 

Feb 20 (6pm), 21 (1.30pm, 6pm, 7.30pm), 22 (1pm, 6pm, 7.30pm) 
Michael Fowler Centre Foyer, Ladies Toilets
11 Wakefield St, Wellington
Tickets: Adults $8, Conc $6, Fringe Addict $5
Bookings and Info: 027 328 9876, engagedplay@gmail.com  

Cast and collaborators:
Jackie (ditzy girl): Kate Green
Shelley (ditzy girl): Rosie Morgan
Adonis (male prostitute): Reuben Brickell
Kim (aggressive lesbian): Mara Gold
Brodie (lesbian): Phoebe Dengate-Thrush
Sid (druggie): Jesse Smith
Sam (druggie/pregnancy test girl): Ginny Spackman
Greg (bulimic guy)/Pervert: Stuart Moore
Paige (anarchist girl): Harriet Myles
Butch Lesbian: George Mapplebeck 

35 min

Intriguing, unnerving and voyeuristic

Review by Lynn Freeman 06th Mar 2008

We’ve been to Fringe shows in a lingerie shop, a Laundromat, travel agent’s, cafes, central city office – it was only a matter of time until we were ushered into a toilet. 

Engaged is Mara Gold’s baby – it’s her idea, she directs it and is one of the disturbing assortment of people who we meet, like it or not, as we lounge around the sinks and cubicles.

It’s intriguing, unnerving and voyeuristic, all good things for a show like this, though some people stayed well back from the in-cubicle action (secret eating, secret drinking, sobbing, graffiti, perving, oral sex, same old same old). 

Some of the characters were there too fleetingly seen for us to get to know them or to care, but overall it was well thought through and executed by the cast of ten. 


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Dodgy dealings in public convenience

Review by John Smythe 21st Feb 2008

Only at the Fringe could I find myself lurking in the Ladies Loo – a spacious amenity at the Michael Fowler Centre – to witness variously nefarious interactions in the company of strangers.

The glimpses we get depend entirely on where we happen to be standing and it’s our business to get ourselves where we can see and hear. And if whatever seems to be the main action is a bit inaccessible at any given moment, there’s always something else to note of you look around. So everyone’s experience of this show will be necessarily different.

A couple of ditzy girls, Jackie (Kate Green) and Shelley (Rosie Morgan) are in and out, gossiping, fixing lippy, getting lippy, shaving legs … and one, clearly delighted that some Adonis (Reuben Brickell) wants to "do" her, secures his services as a ‘cunning linguist’ in a cubicle before discovering he expects to be paid.

Soon after, his ‘omnisexuality’ is very confronting to a spaced out small time drug pusher, Sid (Jesse Smith) who has lost something important after doing a deal with a cool customer called Sam (Ginny Spackman) who later loses equilibrium in the process of taking a pregnancy test …  

Meanwhile Kim (Mara Gold) a particularly aggressive and jealous lesbian comes on strong to Brodie (Phoebe Dengate-Thrush) who submits to what seems like pleasure at the time but afterwards neither is happy or loving. Brodie does have a happier encounter later, I think, but I can’t quite recall who with.

Maybe I’ve got too preoccupied with the ball of red knitting wool which I think belongs to the graffiti-writing anarchist Paige (Harriet Myles), or Greg the up-chucking bulimic guy (Stuart Moore) – who also perves on Sam from the next-door cubicle … Or the androgynous person who must have been what my cast list calls ‘Butch Lesbian’ (George Mapplebeck). 

Compared with Hotel, last year’s site-specific hit, Engaged is not as, well, engaging because the relatively contrived action is not so ultra-naturalistic and we are not so well-placed to absorb ourselves into the characters’ lives and find points of empathy.

Strangely I get no sense of being a secret voyeur on people’s private moments in a public convenience, but the different dynamic that comes from strangers milling together amid these dodgy dealings does add a novelty factor to the experience.

As a work of alternative theatre for the Fringe – preceded (on opening night anyway) by lovely wine and nibbles – Engaged does the business with enough flair to please most patrons. At just 35 minutes it is either too short to deliver the potential of what it sets up, or it’s short enough not to make the exercise tedious for the standing audience. As I say: everyone will have a different point of view.


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