kidattypewriter

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Urinetown, the newspaper

Inspiration comes to people in strange places, and it came to Mark Hollman when he was going to the toilet. He had to pay to use a public toilet in Paris, and that gave him the idea for Urinetown, a musical about a world where all private toilets have been banned, and control of the public toilets has been outsourced to a gigantic monopoly, the UGC, who spend their time cheerfully passing price hikes through the government. Malefactors who break the law against urinating in public are sent to 'Urinetown'.
A world where everyone is busting to go: it's the kind of sublimely intense idea that musicals were made for.

Last night I went to see a production of Urinetown by schoolkids (from Williamstown High, Diogenes neck of the woods; notch one up for the public education system!) and had a jolly good time. (The toilet filled with steaming dry ice to create the occasional misty stage effect was a particularly nice touch).

The main theme of the play was conveyed in the first scene by a series of front pages from The Age, where headlines described the situation as it unfolded:

'Thirty Year Drought'
'Private urinals banned'
'UGC takes over urinals'
'Offenders sent off to Urinetown'
.

That sort of thing. Satire based on this idea could be taken in any direction, obviously, but I wondered about the other stories that would be published in a post-Urinetown edition of The Age.

Kenneth Davidson, obviously, would be running a series of articles extolling the older, kinder Australia where public toilets were free, clean, and happy places to be, and where there was a "Lavatory on every street corner!" Although, of course, any moves to reintroduce a 'private toilet' system would be portrayed by Davidson as "a form of theft." Freelance opinion columnist Chris Masters would write a column redolent with nostalgia about this happier Australia, full of gleaming white lavatories, and supplying a charming and obviously relevant anecdote about a media personality called Alan Jones, but let's not go into that. Meanwhile, a guest column by Gerard Henderson, of The Sydney Morning Herald, would staunchly defend the decision by the Government to privatise the public toilets and create the UGC.

At the same time, The Age would also run a feature entitled 'Every little drop counts', with a list of handy bullet-point tips telling readers how to hold it in, and giving publicity to a recent study by the CSIRO into the devastating consequences that could result from our overuse of urinals. The editorial would be mostly concerned with encouraging 'sensible urine policy' on the part of the Government.

The gossip column would mostly be concerned with cosmetic surgery on Paris Hilton's dog (who, by this time, is technically dead, but not taxidermically so), and need not be mentioned.

The letters page would be overflowing (not literally, obviously) with urine. One punter from Malvern would write in with the pithy (he thinks) line "The Government's urine policy is short-term gain for long-term pain!". An elderly gentlemen living in an old person's home in Camberwell pens a dreadful 148-line poem about the current urine-situation, of which The Age deigns to publish three lines:

Pay to pee?
O woe is me!
I do not want to pay this terrible fee!

A number of readers from Fitzroy write letters in which the first sentence makes reference to the Government's urine policy, and then by way of a blatant non-sequitur, go on to talk about the misguided war against terror, the greenhouse effect, the sufferings of the little man, etc, etc, etc. One would note that this would never have happened if the Whitlam Government had been re-elected and instituted a non-existent 'Urinal for All!' policy. And an elderly lady from South Yarra would encourage the UGC's latest round of price-hikes because it kept the ' unwashed masses' out of her local toilet.

23 comments:

Karen said...

You forgot the cartoonists. They'd have more fun with such a scenario than anyone else.

I've not seen Urinetown, but it does look amusing. Those lucky kids! At school we had to do an absolutely awful musical- the story of the prodigal son, only with ants as the main characters.* I was cast as (shudder!) a flower. I auditioned to be a spider, because the spiders at least got to try to kill the prodigal ant.

*Your Oedipal ants of a short while ago brought back memories!

TimT said...

There are not nearly enough musicals with spiders playing major roles. This is a stunning oversight on the part of Broadway producers, as really, the only way to bring the punters back in would be to give the lead role to a chorus of gigantic black arachnids. With big gleaming fangs. Obvious, really.

Karen said...

Indeed there is not, especially given the sort of musical finales one could have, with spiders dancing in rows on shiny drain pipes. There should be a Charlotte's Web musical at least!
And Hollywood has served the spiders very ill, I fear.

TimT said...

Guest humans could do the Tarantella!

Karen said...

It would be a crime if they did not, given the Spiders from Mars would be providing the accompaniment.
Which brings us to an important question- would the spiders opt for a rock musical, something a bit Rocky Horror, or more traditional fare? I certainly think spiders are naturally a bit glam rock. They like tight pants with glitter on them and big hair, in any case. And they do have a tendency to push the envelope.

(You've put one of my favourite Tom Waits songs in my head while I'm working, damn you!).

TimT said...

They could go for the lazy option and do Spiderman: The Musical, but I'd be disappointed by that. Though a couple of kids would probably be first in line at the ticket booth... Who knows how they'd cope with seeing a Glam version of their superhero?

I must fess up that about a month ago, I was half-heartedly jotting down ideas for a short-story titled 'Octopus: The Musical', or similar, for a SF magazine featuring all things Octopus. All a bit silly, really, but it did allow me to come up with a number of good song titles, and the following idea for an Octopus love-song:

Let us go then, you and I,
Hand in hand
And hand in hand
And hand in hand
And hand in hand
And hand in hand
And hand in hand
And hand in hand
And hand in hand
Down the streets of New York City... (etc)

And we will dance,
Hand in hand
And hand in hand
And hand in hand
And hand in hand
And hand in hand
And hand in hand
And hand in hand
And hand in hand,
Too sweet music, light, and pretty ...

(etc)

Karen said...

Spiders don't sell out like that, Tim. Cockroaches maybe (because I hate them), but not spiders.

There's a SF magazine devoted to the humble octopus? I don't know why that delights me so, but it does. And a J. Alfred Octopus just makes such perfect sense! I think someone did beat you to the punch on the octopus love though. I have a vague memory in my head of someone winning or being nominated for the Literary Review Bad Sex Scene in Fiction award for something involving an octopus, but I can't remember who it was and all sorts of evil occurs when you type "sex", "award", "fiction" and "octopus" into google.

TimT said...

It was an Octopus Issue. I think I've missed the deadline anyway. Spiders are charming creatures, for all their roguish ways.

Karen said...

You disappoint me. I was so delighted by the idea of the magazine exclusively devoted to the octopus and now you've spoiled it! It's just like when my sister told me about Santa Claus. Shame on you!
I find the idea of the spider exceedingly roguish and charming, but must confess that I do not cope well with them in real life. Cockroaches, however, really send the chills down my spine. What I hate about them is that way they lie on the footpath, looking like a stain or a shadow and then they wait until you're level with them (and only when you're level with them) before moving suddenly. It is the meanest, most sadistic thing!

TimT said...

It's a good thing I never applied for the job of Token Dwarf on Fantasy Island, as I'm sure I would ruin it for everybody.

Do let's talk about spiders. What's your favourite family of spiders? The Uloboridae or the Holarchaeidae?

Karen said...

I'm sure all would be forgiven, once they heard your absolutely stupendous rendition of "The plane! The plane!". Are you a gentleman of short stature? You certainly don't seem so waving/falling off your chair.

After a quick perusal of wikipedia (because a very inconsiderate person did not link for my convenience- no, wait- "The plane! The plane!"- a very thoughtful person forgot to link there for my convenience), I find that both aren't poisonous, so I think I'll go for the latter- I like their choice of habitat and it would be my phonetic preference.

TimT said...

I am not short. So there I go, ruining all the fantasies of any readers with a dwarf fetish. Damn, did it again!

Karen said...

Aren't you going to tell me (or your readership) which sort of spider you prefer? It might make things up to the short-fetishists.

Being tallish (about 5ft 10) I'm always quite taken with very short and very tall folk.

TimT said...

Oh, alright, I'll go with Holarchaeidae because they do have a good name. Huzzah for spiders!

TimT said...

Ooh! I'm rather taken with the fact that the spiders' silk-producing organs are called spinnerets!

Karen said...

You're browsing through Wikipedia articles about spiders? Your employer must be so pleased! Spinnerets is a very suggestive word, I agree. Hurrah for spinnerets! There was a beautiful spider's web outside the front door last week, as a matter of fact.

I like Holarchaeidae, but I know I would have a hell of a time pronouncing it, so I'd probably avoid it- "those spiders in Tasmania, who don't mind New Zealand either", I'd have to say. This is the effect of a childhood speech defect- I have favourite words in speech and favourite words in print.

Karen said...

What are your feelings on this sort of spider?

TimT said...

Well, my employer doesn't have to know ...

A Spider Fancier's Poem

Some speak of glorious Russia,
Their odalisques and minarets
But what really floats my proverbial boat
Is a common house-spiders spinnerets!

TimT said...

Karen, let it be known that ice-cream spiders are amongst my favourite spiders and my favourite drinks.

Karen said...

That's good to know. I wouldn't want to be a bad influence!

I do like the poem- it sets off all sorts of distracting chains of association- red spiders, spiders frog marching. Social realist spiders!

Actually, I think that spiders would like a bit of the old epic theatre most of all- imagine The Threepenny Opera redone with spiders!

It is pleasing to hear that you sully your ice cream with lemonade.

TimT said...

Heaven save me, now I want to write this spider musical...

Karen said...

Oh please do write it! It will give me as much joy as the Kodak Picture Machine Tragedy, I'm sure.

And if heaven really does help you and you produce a Jesus Christ Superspider, well I think my brain will burst with joy!

Karen said...

Oh, you wrote "save", didn't you? Nevermind. What I want most of all is spiders combined with blasphemy.

(I'm on the odd numbers again. This pleases me. For some reason, it makes me uneasy to be on the evens).

Email: timhtrain - at - yahoo.com.au

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