Pros: Energetic, comic and touching with a splendid performance by Joana Nastari.
Cons: Out-of-character scenes are distracting and would be better omitted.
As the lights dim in the barrel vault of the Pit theatre, a figure in a fur coat, sparkly pink baseball cap and three-inch platform heels sashays onto the stage. She introduces her sound designer, Kitt, and asks him for suggestions of names with which to welcome an audience of strippers; he’s reluctant to give voice to a litany of sexist, abusive terms. “They come out here, to the theatre,” she tells him, “they know it’s dramaturgical design. They’re not going to judge you.”
Being judged, and not being judgmental, are at the core of this emotive and occasionally hilarious glimpse into the life of a stripper. Bea is a 23-year-old striptease artist who loves the work, but is simultaneously desperate to conceal it from her Brazilian mother. She performs under the stage name of Holly – “When one flashes one’s gash for cash, one must protect one’s alias.”
The show alternates between the confessional and the dramatic, as Bea recreates conversations with other strippers (of whom she’s universally fond) and the punters (whom she largely despises). “You’re better than this,” they tell her drunkenly, “you’re far too pretty”. But she responds to their inane repetitions, their hackneyed platitudes and their lecherous advances with charm and wit. “I think that’s enough,” she tells one punter after his twelfth lap dance, “or I might fall in love with you.”
Throughout the show Kitt interrupts from off-stage as the voice of her phone. Not the voice on her phone, but the phone itself: partly reminding her of the growing bank of texts from her mother, who Bea is convinced has guessed her secret occupation, and partly acting as the voice of her conscience. It’s Kitt who reminds her the morning after that she’s maxed out her credit card on four Uber rides and spent all her cash losing a bet with a group of Italian tourists.
For the first 15 minutes, performer Joana Nastari – who also wrote the show – is slightly awkward as she introducrs the character of Bea through the medium of a poem written in rhyming doggerel. But when she slips into character, Nastari wows the audience with an energetic and entertaining montage of Bea letting loose in a nightclub; dancing, knocking back shots, rolling joints, snorting lines of coke and drinking more shots before passing out in a drunken stupor.
From this point onwards the show comes alive, as the character of Bea enacts scenes from her everyday existence and discusses her chosen path in life. “Hi, I’m Holly,” she announces, “and I babysit grown men”.
With fluid direction from Beth Pitts, a thumping soundtrack that veers from Brazilian to Grime and evocative, restless lighting effects, the show surges through its 90 minutes with energy and humour. A couple of dreamlike scenes are hard to interpret, and the moments when Bea slips out of character break up the flow; but overall it’s an entertaining and enthusiastic performance, with moments of high comedy that could have been better balanced by a little more tragedy.
Author: Joana Nastari
Director: Beth Pitts
Sound Design: Kitt Proudfoot
Producer: Ellen Spence
Booking Until: 28 January 2018
Box Office: 07598 676 202
Booking Link: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/fuck-you-pay-me/