The Airline Toilets Theatre Company: Watch One Man Stage Comical Shows in Airplane Bathrooms

When COVID 19 struck, the­ater lovers were faced with a choice.

Let go entire­ly, or expand our def­i­n­i­tions of what con­sti­tutes “the­ater.”

We’ve had 14 months to get used to the idea of per­for­mances staged in clos­etsin pod­cast form, or as phone calls hing­ing on audi­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion.

We’re sick of Zoom, but we no longer con­sid­er it manda­to­ry for the play­ers to inhab­it the same space as each oth­er or the audi­ence.

This is all old news to Peter Brooke Turn­er, a mem­ber of the Ukulele Orches­tra of Great Britain and the founder of the Air­line Toi­lets The­atre Com­pa­ny.

The ATTC’s reper­toire con­sists of great works of lit­er­a­ture, song and dance… per­formed exclu­sive­ly in air­craft lava­to­ries, a true feat when one con­sid­ers that Turn­er, impre­sario and sole com­pa­ny mem­ber, is 6’8”.

2015’s inau­gur­al pro­duc­tion, above, remains among the company’s most ambi­tious —  a 50th anniver­sary recre­ation of Bob Dylan’s 1965 pro­mo­tion­al film clip for Sub­ter­ranean Home­sick Blues, shot on var­i­ous flights through­out the Ukulele Orchestra’s US tour.

Before long, Turner’s car­ry-on was stuffed with props and cos­tumes — a toga, three self-adhe­sive Abra­ham Lin­coln beards, a fat suit, a plas­tic cig­ar, card­board face masks of Jimi Hen­drix and Queen’s Bri­an May, and a num­bers of inflat­a­bles, includ­ing a woman, a horse, and a not par­tic­u­lar­ly real­is­tic hand­gun.

Stag­ing solo, site spe­cif­ic mini pro­duc­tions struck Turn­er as a far more amus­ing prospect than remain­ing in his seat, watch­ing a movie:

I don’t like pas­sive con­sumerism — I’d rather make my own movie than watch some CGI block­buster on a plane. 90% of tour­ing is NOT per­form­ing but sit­ting around on a plane/train/bus star­ing into space — I’m just try­ing to do some­thing cre­ative to make the time pass. 

With advance plan­ning, the sim­pler pro­duc­tions can make it into the can on a sin­gle take.

The James Bond Trib­ute, below, which called for cos­tume changes, pup­pets and card­board masks of Sean Con­nery, Roger Moore, and Daniel Craig, was shot in seg­ments — Lon­don to Frank­furt, Sin­ga­pore to Auck­land, and Sin­ga­pore to Lon­don.

Rather than pro­ject­ing for the ben­e­fit of folks in the non-exis­tent back row, Turn­er prefers to lip synch pre­re­cord­ed lines, fed to him via ear­bud. This helps dial down the sus­pi­cions of flight atten­dants and fel­low pas­sen­gers. Once the “occu­pied” light comes on, he reck­ons he has between 7 to 10 min­utes to take care of busi­ness. Should any­one ques­tion the length of his stay, or his large bag of cos­tumes and props, his excuse is that “I suf­fer from haem­or­rhoids and need to change my pants. (Believe me, this is a con­ver­sa­tion no one wants to take fur­ther.)”

Watch a playlist of the Best of the Air­line Toi­lets The­ater Com­pa­ny here.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Drift: Pas­sen­ger Shoots Strik­ing Short Film Out of Air­plane Win­dow

Pre-Flight Safe­ty Demon­stra­tion Gets Per­formed as a Mod­ern Dance: A Cre­ative Video from a Tai­wanese Air­line

Artist Nina Katchadouri­an Cre­ates Flem­ish Style Self-Por­traits in Air­plane Lava­to­ry

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her June 7 for a Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain: The Peri­od­i­cal Cica­da, a free vir­tu­al vari­ety hon­or­ing the 17-Year Cicadas of Brood X. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.