Bunker Theatre, London – until 19 May 2019
There’s a DJ deck and DJ (Charlotte Bickley), faux fur walls and palm trees and three mini circular stages. This is a strip club, Holly’s (Joana Nastari) place of work and she’ll take us behind the scenes to her world as a stripper to see the good, the bad and the ugly aspects.
Holly isn’t a student who needs the cash, neither is she paying for a drug addict, she likes the work, the flexibility of it and can earn good money. Her job title maybe stripper but that means she is also in sales, marketing, PR, acting and dancing but she doesn’t have the same level of workers’ rights.
She has to pay to perform, earning her wage from tips and private dances all of which means networking, charming, and hustling among the clubs customers. Backstage there is camaraderie among the strippers and ‘office’ politics, personal dramas and concerns just like any place of work.
Holly is worried that her mother might have found out what she does and her phone is given its own voice, a sort of alter ego, demanding to be heard and charged which adds to the tension. She has to juggle the pressures of life with work as we all do.
While she takes us through her personas, and her ability to gauge just what type of woman a man wants her to be she also paints a picture of the different types of men and their behaviour. The shy, the impertinent, the lairy, the dads – a lot of dads – those that respect the rules and those that put hands where they shouldn’t.
When Holly leaves the club we are transported from kerbside to Brazil, grandparents and rainforests in a sequence that while poetic, the sudden change in tone drags away from the piece rather than adding to it.
The play’s most powerful moment comes when Holly finally talks to her mother whose response is beautiful, warm and wise.
Written and performed by Joana Nastari, F*ck You and Pay Me is described as a love letter to sex workers, it dispels some of the myths, is celebratory, humorous and witty but doesn’t sugar coat.
Its message, read out as a letter at the end, is one demanding respect and the same rights enjoyed by other types of work – that sex workers are human beings and should be treated as such.
As the starting point for a bigger conversation around sex work, it is a powerful one.
The play is introduced each night with two guest performances so the running time varies but the night I saw it, it was one hour and 50 minutes.
I’m giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and it’s at the Bunker Theatre until 19 May.
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