What’s in a name? In the case of Kotis and Hoffman’s dubiously entitled Urinetown, the charmingly clumsy pun leads us in to an evening of razor-sharp humour.
The latest on-campus performance from Sheffield University Performing Arts Society (SUPAS), Urinetown has already made its mark as a highlight of this year’s student productions. Raucous laughter from the audience and a definite buzz around campus have ensured that this show will not easily be forgotten.
Unlike many more traditional musicals, Urinetown goes beyond catchy tunes and predictable endings to deliver punchy humour with some tongue-in-cheek political commentary thrown in. Set in a dystopian not-so-distant future of chronic water shortage, the show sees public bathrooms fall under the malevolent control of ‘Urine Good Company’. With revolution rising around Public Amenity #9, the set-up has all the makings of a familiar, feel-good tale of the underdog saving the day.
What makes this production so special, however, is the unprecedented smashing of the fourth wall. David Snelling is outstanding as Officer Lockstock: the part-time law enforcer, part-time metatheatrical narrator, whose frequent outbursts have the audience in stitches. While the anti-corporate satire is well-delivered, and at times genuinely thought-provoking, the target of the show’s funniest punchlines is the farcical nature of musical theatre itself.
As such, SUPAS deserve to be truly commended for their production of this complex and demanding show. Every joke hits its mark, and the cast is lively, talented and engaging. Katie Coen gives a particularly hilarious performance as the Public Amenity’s formidable keyholder, Ms. Pennywise, who drives the gleeful melodrama throughout the evening.
Despite the show’s subversive mockery of its own genre, the creative team are not deterred from the task of producing a dazzling spectacle of song and dance. The choreography, masterminded by Phoebe Phillips, is visually stunning, bringing a fresh dynamic to the performance. Equally impressive is the quality of music, with a talented chorus and live band supporting a strong cast of leads.
SUPAS have taken a risk with this little-known show, and it has absolutely paid off. With real humour, great music and a contemporary relevance, this is a promising sign of things to come.