Fuck You Pay Me
Press Night – 9th May 2019
“funny and empowering without attempting to gloss over the hazards”
In true striptease style this lucidly written play observing the sex worker lifestyle must wait an age while the audience is warmed up. Stacey Clare reads extracts from her forthcoming book countering the stigma and stereotypes of stripping, setting a feminist compass and authentic tone for the evening, before Electric Girl performs an erotic dance to establish the more familiar face and form of the subject. With thunder seemingly stolen, Joana Nastari then takes the stage to narrate the typical evening at a dance club for One, a stripper, as she navigates the hapless regulars and predictable first-timers. Behind her, The Other, played by Charlotte Bickley operates the decks, playing music and occasionally chiming in as DJ Craig as well as voicing One’s phone, which slowly dies as her worried mother tries to make contact.
The tale is funny and empowering without attempting to gloss over the hazards of drugs and drink, the insecure employment and short-term lifestyle. We share the camaraderie of her co-workers as they respect one another’s ‘hustle’, but also the building concern represented by the mother’s missed calls. As a writer, Joana Nastari is perceptive and entertaining. As an actor, she establishes a rapport with her audience while being able to withdraw into scenes where more depth is needed.
Director Bethany Pitts, together with movement director Yami Lofvenberg, uses podia, pools of light, (lighting design, Martha Godfrey) fake fur and tinsel (designer, Naomi Kuyck-Cohen) to create the necessary stages, corners, cupboards and dressing rooms, enhanced by Charlotte Bickley’s rich sound design.
Producer Ellen Spence steers her female production team determinedly away from any danger of being too serious, while ensuring that the stereotype created by those who demean sex workers is thoroughly busted. In place of analysis, the team prefers to endorse the well-run strip club as a safe way for fun-loving adults to exploit each other’s needs.
The show might be more self-confident without the preamble (different performers will open each performance) but if you know how to extract whoops and cheers from an audience the temptation to is probably irresistible. However, in doing so, some of the idea is lost. It’s the intersection between the emotional support sex-workers provide for each other with the moral and campaigning support provided by modern feminism that makes this a fresh and fascinating production, one that needs no dressing up.
Reviewed by Dominic Gettins
Photography by Maurizio Martorana
Fuck You Pay Me
The Bunker until 19th May
The line up of special guests at each performance will be announced each day on FYPM’s social media
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit …
Reviewed – 4th October 2018
“opens up the walls of free speech to challenge our notions of offence”
“I’ve been single so long? I’ve started having sexual fantasies about my vibrator.” At odds with the sombre hospital ward setting, this opening line of the European premiere of Halley Feiffer’s script sets the tone for piece determined to find comedy in life’s darkest moments. Spunky and spirited Karla (Cariad Lloyd) is trying out some new “bits” for her mother (‘Marcie’, played by Kristin Milward), bedbound by her cancer treatment. On the other side of the curtain, unassuming forty-something Don (Rob Crouch) arrives to visit his mother (Cara Chase). What starts out as offence turns into friendship, and over the course of the play, the relationship between this mismatched couple deepens as the tragedy that underpins the reasons for their connection grows ever more present. Family is at the heart of this touching and witty play, and this production offers genuine laugh-out-loud moments – often at the expense of others – gently mixed with tender and nuanced moments of introspection and revelation.
What’s so glorious about the comedy on display is how fresh it seems. Shifting from the off into the murky realm between ‘funny’ and ‘offensive’, “A Funny Thing…” invites the audience to admit no topic is off-limits. Are only certain groups of people allowed to make certain jokes? Is, as Karla declares, there “anything funnier than rape”? This audience in particular seemed to enjoy gasping and laughing in unison, and, especially by giving this shocking and foul-mouthed voice to a female comedian character, opens up the walls of free speech to challenge our notions of offence (something Ricky Gervais has spent many years trying to do).
The performances on display are exceptional, showing an acute awareness of comic timing whilst still producing believable and relatable characters on stage. Cariad Lloyd flows with natural energy and it utterly compelling, whilst Rob Crouch, although seeming sometimes too heightened in comparison to Lloyd, embodies the everyman battered down by the pains and disappointments of his life. Chase and Milward, silent and asleep in bed for most of the play, hold a lot of presence, and their moments of speech come as a pleasant and hilarious surprise. Milward especially justifies everything that comes out of Marcie’s mouth making her perhaps the most memorable character in the show.
It is the nature of a script set in a hospital ward that much of the action takes place sat down in chairs, but Bethany Pitts’ direction still makes space for dynamic moments of motion that disrupt the normality of sitting, reading and waiting. Isabella Van Braeckel’s detailed costume design deserves a mention for its simple awareness of each character, allowing us to truly see these whose these people are at a glance.
With gasps and guffaws in equal measure, “A Funny Thing…” translates well into British culture, being moving, wince-inducing and really funny all in one go. Not one to be missed.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by James O Jenkins
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit
Finborough Theatre until 27th October
Previously reviewed at this venue: