Ovalhouse – until 2 December. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Don’t let the title put you off – this is definitely not a traditional opera. Based on stories from sex workers around the world, this show has the feel of a comedy revue, musical, social studies lesson and club night all mashed together.
Tied together loosely by the protests of a woman who wants to save her sister from being a sex worker (the weakest part of the production really as it’s a bit clunky, restating issues that have just been, or are just about to be explored through song or comedy), the show tackles preconceptions and clichés about sex work and offers a little insight as to why it is an obvious and practical choice of job for some people. The overwhelming message of the production is not to judge, or pity – just listen.
Between the songs, accompanied by a four-piece band – with Marcelo Faccacello’s hysterical solo performance with their cello (study that name carefully!) something you’ll never be able to forget – there are comedy and serious sketches, and a series of monologues where characters’ stories are shared. These monologues are the emotional core of the show, including the struggle of a mother to keep her teenage daughter, the experiences of a Fem sex worker, while the description of the sense of fulfilment a disabled prostitute who specialises in disabled clients gets drew a huge round of applause from the audience.
Political points, including the introduction of the Nordic model – where clients are criminalised, were made in a light-hearted way before their personal impact was passionately demonstrated, while the hypocrisy of media regulations was sent up brilliantly in a sketch where the most unpleasant and perverted thing was the regulator.
The standard of acting and vocals is variable, but this is a fine ensemble piece, with the three huge voices of Siobhán Knox, Charlotte Rose and Jordan Busson (with a truly operatic voice) carry the show. The joyful celebration turns a little dark in the second act, with a disturbingly staged police raid and remembrance of the dead, but the message of empowerment and strength shines through.
This is an unforgettable, emotional rollercoaster of a show that challenges and celebrates in equal measure. Grab a ticket now.