I bang on about the appalling lack of civilised lavatorial facilities in theatres so often that it’s become a joke amongst my friends in the industry. There she goes again: Susan “Lavatories” Elkin. Perhaps I’m in danger of becoming what the late, great Bernard Levin disparagingly dubbed a “single issue fanatic”. If so, well take me as you find me. I think it’s a vital matter because it makes a huge difference to the quality of a theatre going experience. One really shouldn’t be reduced to remembering to pop into Costa over the road before the show or making sure you drink nothing for three hours before curtain up.
Imagine then, my joy, when I went to Above The Stag at Vauxhall recently. I was there to review Goodbye Norma Jeane and it was my first visit. For a start the venue specialises in LBGT+ issues and there were far more men than women in the bar beforehand. I looked round and thought gleefully: “Oh good. There won’t be much of a queue in the ladies tonight”.
Now, Above The Stag – which began as a pub theatre – is now housed in a new purpose built venue in a railway arch. It moved into its new home last year. And when I got to the intelligent loos I was both amazed and delighted.
A single door indicates both male and female facilities. Beyond the door are six cubicles, three on each side with a circular hand washing arrangement in the middle. It’s all communal. Then there’s a door with a very clear illustration of urinals on through which people with penises, who only want to pee and are happy with that arrangement, can go. Brilliant! Sensible use of space and maximum speed through-put. I think every theatre manager in London (and beyond for that matter) should be compelled to go and look at it. It’s a design well worth considering for all new builds and many refurbs.
Meanwhile Above the Stag gets the Susan Elkin Award for 5* theatre lavatories. And the play was OK, too.