Anya Subich

"Urinetown": piss in anti-utopia

What if in the future we have to pay for peeing?

In the world where they already trade drinking water and fresh air, such a perspective does not seem at all impossible. Impressed by the system of paid toilets in Europe, American playwright Greg Kotis came up with a fantasy about the country, where the process of urination is monopolised by the government.


"Urinetown" - a scene of rebellion from the musical "Urinetown" image from Deviant Art a scene of rebellion from the musical "Urinetown" at Henri Miller's theatre on Broadway. Eric Appleton

Gloomy, dystopian future. After a terrible 20-year drought country’s water resources are exhausted. In order to control water consumption, the government bans all public toilets, and the poor citizens are forced into public, pay-per-use amenities, ran by Urine Good Company (UGC). The poorest classes have to use a filthy Public Amenity № 9, ran by a ruthless Penelope Pennywise. Violators, caught while reliving themselves in the street, are being taken to a mysterious Urinetown - a sort of correctional facility, from where there is no return.
When the pee fee becomes unbearably high, the poor masses rise up against oppression and start a brave struggle for public toilets free of charge…

Sounds like someone’s sick imagination – or more like Amsterdam’s Central Station 50-cents-per-use?


musical on stage of St James Theatre in London - Richard Fleeshman, Rosanna Hyland and Karis Jack in Urinetown Johan Persson

"It's a privilege to pee," sings urinal manager Penelope Pennywise. Considering all the Brechtian grotesque of the production, the topic still strikes us with its absurd realism.

With music written by Mark Hollman and lyrics by Greg Kotis, “Urinetown” has been a stunning success in the US and the UK since 2001, and won Tony Award in 2002. The characters of Bobby Strong and Hope Cladwell were included on New York Theatre Monthly's list of "The 100 Greatest Roles in Musical Theatre".

“Urinetown” wittily criticises capitalism, consumerism, and corporate culture, at the same time mocking Broadway musical as a genre. Listen to some Jazzy-Klezmerish pee tunes on the official page of “Urinetown” here.