Real Sex Workers, Real Stories On Stage

Hula House at Camden People’s Theatre ★★★★★

By Londonist Last edited 25 months ago
Real Sex Workers, Real Stories On Stage Hula House at Camden People’s Theatre 5

How many working girls does it take to change a stereotype? Permanently Visible Productions developed Hula House with the English Collective of Prostitutes. These are real women’s real stories, designed to help us shelve our dated preconceptions about prostitution and get us thinking about the shockingly low level of support for the women who do it.

It’s a brilliantly dark comedy. From its language to its site-specificity, every element is steeped in metaphor. As we peer at everyone’s nametags and wonder slightly apprehensively just how immersive Hula House will be, we are greeted by “the blonde one” (Sarah Xanthe) lying naked on a table. She’s covered with a selection of canapés: party rings adorn her nipples and a pineapple perches on her privates. “She’s a vegan, but it’s not the first time she’s stunk of sausage!”

Jenny Kondol, “the ginger one”, dishes out the snacks with bawdy humour. We are open-mouthed, open-minded and ready to be introduced to the ins and outs of London’s prostitution market. In a light-hearted moment Kondol rewards us after a game with a sachet of bubblegum flavoured lube. Hula House’s 'party games', lap-dances and monologues are intercut with harrowing home-truths from real sex workers.

They are mothers, widows, part-time dog-walkers; they drink with friends after work and have favourite foods. A lady after our own heart, Chessa has IBS but gorges potatoes like a trooper. Their message is clear: prostitution is no more diverse than any other industry. They could be our friends, or us. The games are designed to scotch the “us and them” mentality by blurring lines. “Think about all the blowjobs you’ve given in exchange for help with the washing,” Xanthe purrs.

Kondol and Xanthe’s characters are based the interviews: the grittier details of their experiences are all the more harrowing for their authenticity. They are emotional acrobats, expertly heightening a sense of unease, then gravitating to almost-titillating fluid exchanges. Hula House’s only drawback is the brevity of its current run. Grab a ticket to see this brave, thrilling and thought-provoking production by the balls.

By Rosalind Stone

Hula House is at the Crossroads Women's Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX until 26 September. Tickets £12/£10 from Camden People's Theatre. Londonist saw this production on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 21 September 2015