Emotions run hot behind the bathroom door

Hot Mess
Kings Cross Theatre, June 12
★★★½

Public restrooms might seem an unlikely location to make a new meaningful connection. But when you’re at a club and in line for a stall – or out of paper inside one – the person you strike up a conversation with could change your entire night. You might receive a welcome outfit check, a phone number or exchange of Instagram handles, or the best gift of all: a spark of emotional insight and validation.

Jenna Suffern is a particularly bright spark as an anxious lesbian fresh off a break-up.Credit:Clare Hawley

Hot Mess is about this feeling. Set inside the bathroom of a busy Sydney club, we follow a group of women and non-binary people (Alicia Dulnuan-Demou, Courtney Ammenhauser, Hannah Grace Fulton, Jenna Suffern, Jessica Adie, and Mây Trần) as they duck in and out. They meet new crushes, have long-overdue conversations, drink the leftover wine resting by the toilet, and try to sort themselves out.

Created by The General Public, a theatre/comedy collective, and directed by Tasha O’Brien, Hot Mess, like its title, is a little messy and shaggy with moments of forced exposition. It’s rough around the structural edges – some of its emotional climaxes are unearned – but it’s also very funny.

It’s a love letter to messiness that centres and uplifts the experiences of women, queer women, and non-binary people and is packed with observational humour about queer dating, adulthood, and friendship. On opening night a loud and responsive audience was clearly delighted to see and be seen.

Suffern is a particularly bright spark as an anxious lesbian fresh off a break-up, while Trần’s smoothly confident line delivery reveals real comic chops, but this is an ensemble show, and the ensemble works beautifully.

That collaborative spirit is evident in the technical aspects of the production, too: the set (built by Hayley O’Mara) and collectively-chosen costumes feel directly in conversation with each other and with the story; Vanessa Gregoriou’s lights smooth rough edges and bring the party; Chrysoulla Markoulli’s sound design has a cheeky streak.

With a mix of musical comedy and scene work (a musical interlude about reproductive rights that features a spectacular Hilary Duff reference almost sparks a singalong, and an extended riff on Chicago’s Cell Block Tango centres on sexual/gendered harassment and righteous revenge), the show feels part play, part party – it’s the warmth and camaraderie of being out with friends. Take your mates – and then go to a club. You’ll never be more ready to strike up a conversation in the loos.

This review is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund and the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

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