Review: Sex Workers' Opera Is Provocative But Tasteful

Sex Workers’ Opera, Pleasance Theatre ★★★★☆

By Sophia Shluger Last edited 98 months ago

Last Updated 26 May 2016

Review: Sex Workers' Opera Is Provocative But Tasteful Sex Workers’ Opera, Pleasance Theatre 4
Photo © Manu Valcarce

Provocative and tasteful, Pleasance Theatre's Sex Workers' Opera is a meaningful theatrical discourse on sexuality and world of sex work.

Co-directed by Siobhan Knox and Alex Etchart of the Experimental Experience Theatre company the show is created and performed by a diverse cast half comprised of sex workers, including vocal UK sexual freedom activist Charlotte Rose.

Accompanied by four soulful musicians, the program takes the audience on an intimate journey into the multifaceted world of sex work 'beyond binaries and boxes'. The mostly vignette format is also framed by a larger narrative of one worker's struggle with acceptance from a loved one. Costumes are as vibrant and varied as they are colourful and the set is decorated by a massive, modular woman's platform shoe that towers above the audience.

A sexy show, Sex Workers' Opera pokes fun at sexuality in all its forms and fantasies while offering an insider's glimpse into the industry. Heavy at times, it also addresses issues of personal violence (police brutality), discrimination (including a vocal protest to the 'Nordic model' that criminalizes sex and effectively endangers its professionals) and the sociopolitical hypocrisy over the rights to the body. As one cast member who caters clients with disabilities reminds us, "sex work is a radical act of giving care and affection in a cold, lonely world."

There's clearly something for everyone mature enough to handle this topic. Despite some overdone stereotypes (such as excessively large moustaches on perverted clients) which is played out as a gimmick for extra comic relief and the fact the show sits very much in the 'pro' sex work camp, the authenticity delivered through moments of confession, personal anecdotes and yes, even nudity, creates a safe space for the audience to question their own beliefs and remind us that sex workers should be respected as much as the next person.

Sex Workers' Opera runs at the Pleasance Theatre until 29 May. Tickets £10-£15. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.