Sure, 2020 was a crap year. So why invite more crap into our lives? Because Kenny is one hell of an outstanding ride you won’t want to pooh pooh, or dare I say dump. And yes, the toilet humour is just too irresistible, let me run with it.
Based on the 2006 mockumentary, which starred Shane Jacobsen as Kenny Smyth, a Melbourne plumber working for a portaloo company who travels to Nashville for a toilet convention, Kenny at the Ensemble Theatre has all the charm of the Aussie cinema classic and more. After all, it’s hard not to be charmed when the affable Kenny (Ben Wood) is directly in front of you wanting a chat… about poo. As Kenny says, “we all do it”.
It was a bold move by Ensemble’s artistic director, Mark Kilmurry, to commission a stage version of the iconic film and Steve Rodgers nailed the adaptation, set a few years on from Nashville with Kenny delivering the keynote speech in Sydney at the International Portable Sanitation Convention. Stepping into Kenny’s overalls is a big call, made easier with Wood’s striking resemblance to Jacobsen and offering the same affable style.
As the perpetually optimistic plumber from Splashdown, one of Australia’s major suppliers of portaloos, Kenny captivates from the start. One minute we’re nestled in the intimacy of the Kirribilli theatre hugging the edge of Sydney Harbour, enjoying a drinkypoo or two, the next we’re at the convention – clients, investors, bosses and employees of the dunny business.
Kenny’s endearing warmth triggering plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, his reflections delivering some delightful poignant moments. “People think because you deal with shit, you are shit,” he points out.
Bodily functions are discussed, Chris Hemsworth, Gladys Berejiklian and the Dalai Lama cheerfully highlighted, their bums have all sat on a Splashdown portaloos, and we learn about the history of toilets, from basic holes in the ground through to Japan’s Tot’s Washlet toilet complete rectum water jet, automatic flusher and a juke box.
We find out how false teeth end up down the loo (“most of us like to inspect our business”) and discover which event the “toerags” prefer when it comes to setting fire to a portaloo. Apparently they have a favourite.
We also ponder over the pros and cons of a job offer with Lavish Loos, and through family pics, meet Kenny’s dour old dad, his lovely mum, young son Jesse and girlfriend Jackie, the airhostess he met on the flight back from Nashville
The really fun part however is when Kenny calls on us, his convention attendees, to get involved. We respond enthusiastically to his thoughts, jot down notes when Geraldine calls wanting latrine advice for her Art and Craft Festival and squirm uncomfortably when Steve is called up to go elbow deep down a loo to retrieve an engagement ring.
Kenny is 80 minutes of sheer relief and pushing though without intermission is definitely no strain. You’ve got to go see it. You’ve just gotta go!
Kenny is at the Ensemble Theatre Kirribilli until February 27
78 McDougall St Kirribilli NSW