Opinion: The Inconvenience of the Toilet Trip

toilet

Frankie Boyle made news this weekend when it was reported that fans were not let back into his gig after they left to go to the toilet. Boyle says that this is not supposed to be the case and that his post-piss policy since 2010 is actually that fans in the stalls are relocated at the back or in the balcony to keep disruption to a minimum.

The Glaswegian comic has a point. There are some things more infuriating than people leaving to go to the toilet – ie people using their phone, but that’s another blog – but the toilet issue has been going on for a long time so it’s great to see a performer take a stand.

Boyle is not the first, of course. I’ve been to a number of gigs over the years where audiences have been told there will be no-readmittance. But like uncontrollable 4-year-olds some still can’t resist nipping out.

I’ve noticed this in particular at shows that have a later kick-off, such as the 9.30pm starts at the Soho Theatre. In London there is not usually time to go home after work so fans have often been drinking since 6pm. I’m no urine-specialist, but speaking from personal experience if you’ve clocked up three hours worth at the bar, even if you go to the loo just before curtain up and don’t drink during the gig it’s unlikely that your bladder can take the strain for an hour. Sometimes Soho says no readmittance, sometimes you can slip back in. 

It is also a problem at the Edinburgh Fringe. Particularly in the smaller venues. And it isn’t just walking out, it’s the moment you walk out. At John Robins’ show this August someone very close to the front decided to walk across the stage just as Robin was building to a pivotal punchline. It was impossible for Robins to plough on regardless. Comedy is often as much about the rhythm as what is being said and the magic spell of the rhythm was broken. 

So what is the solution? Toilet trouble has been a problem a lot longer than mobile phone trouble and it still hasn’t been solved. Even if you have a zero tolerance policy on re-admission that doesn’t stop punters disrupting the gig when they get up to leave. And you can hardly stop people drinking before a gig.

Though pre-loading before shows at the bar is very much a cultural thing. More than one visiting American comic in the past has felt compelled to comment on the amount British comedy-goers knock back. It does not seem to be the same in America. While we might have a more sophisticated comedy circuit in the UK it seems to go hand-in-hand with borderline binge-drinking.

As far as I can see there are only two solutions. Hand people adult nappies on the way in. If they don’t want to use them then don't ban them from returning to a show after using the toilet. Ban them from leaving their seat in the first place. Once the gig starts lock the doors and don't unlock them until the curtain falls. That way the gig might continue uninterrupted. I just wouldn’t want to be the person who has to mop the floor after.

 

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