Queen City Nerve

Charlotte's Cultural Pulse

‘Broken Bone Bathtub’ Immerses its Tiny Audience
Bath and beyond

By Pat Moran

March 1, 2019

Siobhan O’Loughlin at her Thursday performance in Charlotte. (Photo by Pat Moran)

The young woman in the bathtub is naked in more ways than we’d think. Her body is covered by bubbles, yet she’s fully exposed.

As soon as Siobhan O’Loughlin welcomes the four of us into the bathroom, the barrier between performer and spectator dissolves. The following examination of injury, emotion and connection takes on the air of a late-night conversation between longtime friends held over the kitchen table — or in this case, a bathtub full of bubbles.

Broken Bone Bathtub, which premiered at a private home in Plaza Midwood last night, is an intimate and disarmingly casual performance that delves deep into the workings of the human heart. Co-presented by XOXO Ensemble and Goodyear Arts, Broken Bone Bathtub plays at various homes throughout the greater Charlotte area through March 10.

The plotline of O’Loughlin’s piece is simple. Displaying a colorful cast on her forearm, she tells how she broke her hand in a bicycle accident, then recounts the steps she’s followed to heal. In the course of the evening, O’Loughlin weaves themes of feminism, activism, jealousy and loneliness in a discursive grand slalom around her narrative spine.

With each topic, she pulls us in, asking personal questions and encouraging us to tell our own stories about broken bones, crying in public and finding solace from depression. These shared secrets forge an intimate bond between the five of us, and O’Loughlin strengthens those ties by relying on the kindness of (former) strangers.

An intimate venue (left to right): Savvy Jillani, Siobhan O’Loughlin, Gretchen McGinty and Pam Stowe. (Photo by Pat Moran)

By evening’s end fellow audience members Gretchen McGinty, Pam Stowe and Savvy Jillani become active participants, performing tasks in the tub. They wash O’Loughlin’s back, shampoo her hair and massage her uninjured hand. As these simple favors forge an intimate bond between the five of us as, O’Loughlin loops back and ties almost every topic she’s touched upon into an uplifting tale of transformation and personal alchemy.

It’s a worldview that takes in whip cream fights, Turkish baths, platonic shared showers and harrowing hospital scenes where bones are snapped back into place — and fits them all into one tub topped with a layer of bubbles.

Check out our Q&A with O’Loughlin leading up to the Charlotte run of Broken Bone Bathtub. 

Remaining performance Schedule:

Friday, March 1st, 2019: Plaza Midwood (Pets on premises)
Saturday, March 2nd, 2019: Plaza Midwood
Sunday, March 3rd: 2019: Elizabeth (Pets on premises)
Friday, March 8th, 2019: Uptown
Saturday, March 9th, 2019: Echo Park
Sunday, March 10th, 2019: Rock Hill, SC

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