Sunday, 26 August 2018

EDINBURGH FRINGE REVIEW: F**k You Pay Me at the Assembly Rooms


Joana Nastari's intoxicating femininity fills the room when she appears on stage. Like a modern priestess, she reads from an ancient book the ten commandments of her show and the audience cheers loudly when she gets to the one that says 'no shame'. This is the purpose of F**k You Pay Me, a performance intended to fight the stigma that surrounds sex workers and remind the world that 'sex work is just work'. 

Blending fiction with reality (more reality than fiction, me thinks) this is the story of Bea, a stripper in her late 20s whose family is about to discover her real occupation. We follow her to work, in the club where she needs to deal with internal politics and the competitiveness of the industry even before getting to talk to her first potential client. Opening up on what the profession entails, we learn about hefty fines for being caught chewing gum or using a phone. We also learn about tariffs and average income. 

Her portrayal of the men who attend the club is quite primal, although many will recognise in it some familiar features. She admits that she's picked up lots of dad jokes along the way, as her crowd is mainly composed by dads, and she emphasises the necessity to lie about her real name and age. The first to protect her identity from potential stalkers and the second to reassure her clients. '23 is the perfect age,' she says, 'if you're younger, that's creepy, and if you're older, that's desperate'.

Regardless of the itchy subject-matter – which creates such a big divide amongst critics, but also society in general – Nastari delivers a well-crafted performance. Her cheekiness permeates the script with clever jokes and a natural wit. Her acute observation makes her accounts the more realistic, as we share her inner thoughts and feel what she feels. 

Meanwhile, her phone keeps nagging in the background (voiced by Kitt Proudfoot), reminding her that it is the only friend she has. 

Steering clear from politics or feminist implications, Bea eventually talks to her mother, concluding with an exhilarating statement against the bigotry of a society that turns a blind eye to the real needs of sex workers. Firstly, safety and then their recognition as human beings who carry out a profession as honourable and honest as any.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: unreserved | Price of ticket: £10
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