The air is charged tonight, as a space in The Arches becomes a sort of strip club. Two women pole dance in similar auburn wigs and lingerie to Air’s Sexy Boy, blurring identities, before stripping. It feels uncomfortable in its incongruity, especially with the small hard chairs the audience are sitting on.
These women are Rosana, a shaven headed performance artist and Amy, a woman who works in the sex industry two sisters born twenty two months apart. They talk of female desire, of sexuality (Rosana is a lesbian, Amy prefers men ‘with fat cocks’, as she puts it) and how they came to be the women they now are: both strident, confident and feminist. Even first arousals become tinged with nostalgia: Rosana lusted after ”Julie Andrews sitting on a pine cone in The Sound of Music”; Amy’s choice is more unconventional “Superted getting a nappy put on him by a machine!”
Two scenes really are thrilling: in the first, Rosana does a kind of war dance, naked but for Doc Martens, which is so raw it feels like she could tear off her breasts. It is incredibly powerful. Amy comforts her with a huge enveloping hug the kind that only a sister could give.
In the second, their words overlap almost to a babble, reminiscent of the Velvet Underground’s jarring The Gift pithy words in stereo of shared experiences (Amy taught Rosana to lap dance) and the pride and love they have for each other. Amy’s accounts of the sex industry too are fascinating- she recounts them (pornography, the seamier side of Berlin) with a banality as though talking about buying the weekly shop – and it is clear she may as well be after all, it is only a job, her job ”and not”, she says, ”what defines me”. She is very sexual, she says, whereas Rosana isn’t bothered going without sex for a while.
Their frankness is as disarming as it is appealing, as if the audience were a third sister, going through diaries with them with a throaty cackle and a bottle of wine. On occasion, it even veers into standup comedy. However, at times it seems dramatically underdeveloped. Scenes go on too long or ideas (like the first time the mocked-up backstage scene occurs) appear without cohesion. Some political discourse on bodies as commodities would have been nice, and, in the interest of balance, the safety issues, coercion and abuse lap dancers face. Amy makes it all sound so simple. Other women are not as lucky as she, in terms of enjoying working in an industry that simultaneously reveres and exploits .
But the two are likeable and engaging enough women, with a finely honed sense of humour and the ability to laugh at themselves for example, the final montage of their naked cavortings in the garden as toddlers, which is both poignant and hilarious reminding so many women, myself included, of the last time they felt truly comfortable in their own skins.