Spend a Penny scheme launched to improve women’s toilets in theatres

The Theatre’s Trust is  is handing out a total of £125,000 to up to 10 theatres.

Even though this seems inadequate for audiences whose time for use is strictly limited, there are many theatres which do not even meet this standard,” said the Theatres Trust.

“The anxiety caused by long queues, with unappealing conditions often awaiting even the lucky few, meaningfully diminishes the joy of theatre for about half the audience.

Toilets in theatres are quite something. For women there are never nearly enough and I applaud The Theatre’s Trust for not only acknowledging it but helping theatres meet the standards expected of them by audiences. I’ve also heard from men that the toilets for them are pretty vile too. A point was made that unlike at rail stations toilets are not income generators and thus we should be grateful for the outrageous facilities we receive.

The issue isn’t just supply and demand but theatre behaviour. Patrons are encouraged to drink like fish, before, during and even after a production but theatre etiquette means only set times are provided and how many of us have attended a production with no idea when the interval is coming or even worse; there isn’t one!

Regular theatre attendees know the tips and tricks (There’s a set of toilets at the National Theatre I use when the ones on the ground floor have a queue but avoid the Dorfman’s dribbling taps at all costs) but there often feels like an epic journey and panic if at an interval or before a show. When I went on a tour of the Almeida the guide mentioned that the theatre fought to have the women’s toilets bigger than the men’s. The architects were aghast, they like everything to be symmetrical! Newer theatres have no excuse not to provide enough toilets. The most shocking is Trafalgar Studios, a toilet that feels like it was added to a storage cupboard at the last minute but the Donmar doesn’t fare much better with small and minimal cubicles for both men and women.

As a young, childless female I can hold my bladder but it gets tougher once pregnancy and age take their toll. Theatres know and market to their female and older audience but ignore basic facilities. Decent and plentiful facilities means that people won’t be reluctant to have another drink. This isn’t Victorian times, women go to toilet-The Royal Albert Hall was built without a Ladies because women weren’t expected to do that in public-and it should be as good as the show is.

A special mention must go to Arcola, who have this toilet near their studio space. Maybe not that hygienic, definitely not comfortable but certainly ergonomic!


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