You know, over the past 11 years I’ve worked in theatre, I have seen some astounding events in the West End. I’ve seen a show where it rained on stage for the entire performance. I’ve seen a 10-minute monologue performed by an adult from inside a box the size of a small child. I’ve even once seen a show where a remote-controlled puppet walked off stage and started interacting with the audience!
But what never ceases to amaze me is that of the one man/woman show. How on earth do you create a show where it’s just a single individual talking for the entire thing? And yet, star of Fuck You Pay Me, Joana Nastari, is not only taking on the most difficult of acting challenges; but is also choosing to explore a topic that is still quite often perceived as taboo.
But hey, if that doesn’t sound like good theatre, I don’t know what would!
A mix of comedy and confession, Joana Nastari puts us into the shoes of Bea, a 23-year old stripper who is desperate to keep her nightclub activities secret from her deeply Catholic mother.
With her increasingly panicky phone (voiced by Kitt Proudfoot) badgering her as she undergoes her nightly routine, Bea takes us by the hand to explore a glamorous world filled with nipple tassels, sleazy men, lines of cocaine and winking buttholes.
Sauntering onto stage clad in a fur coat and sparkly baseball cap, Nastari is a delight to experience. Powerful and oozing confidence, she quickly introduces herself and her job with a selection of descriptive words that would probably cause the average person to blush. It’s very much a performance from a woman assured in her position and does not give a fuck what others think.
But it’s when Nastari slips into the character of Bea, this mask falls away to reveal the far more vulnerable soul within. Being that Bea is a much shyer and less boisterous individual, it would be easy to interpret this character as Nastari in her early stripper years. But the leading lady is careful to reference a bevy of her fellow colleagues, indicating that this is not actually a narrative of one, but a tale that many young women have experienced.
That said, even with the inexperience, Bea is a force to be reckoned with. Knocking back imaginary shots of tequila, rolling joints, snorting coke and dancing till the dawn breaks, it’s a testament, not only to the impetuous of youth, but also to fractured psyche of a person proud of the feminist proclamations of their profession; and yet must display such power in an industry that is deep-rooted within a patriarchal bias.
As Bea powers through her monologues, her words are accompanied, not only by the thumping rhymes of a Brazilian beat, but also by the excellent lighting work from Martha Godfrey. Considering the traditional dankness of the VAULTS, it’s a true indication of her skills that Godfrey effortless takes us through a variety of locations with nary a pause.
In only 90 minutes, director Beth Pitts and her team take us on an exceptional journey filled with fun and hilarity. But it is also eye-opening in equal measure and Fuck You Pay Me becomes a powerful ode to the often ignored stories of sex workers.
Fuck You Pay Me was performed from 24th-28th January at the 2018 Vaults Festival.
Director – Beth Pitts
Produced by Ellen Spense
Dramaturg – India Crawford
Sound Design – Kitt Proudfoot
Set Design – Florence Watts
Lighting Design – Martha Godfrey
Bea – Joana Nastari
Phone – Kitt Proudfoot