Review: ‘Whore’ by Elise Hoggard

Guest Blogger: Elise Hoggard

Devised and directed by Melissa herself, the Charlatan Clinic’s latest project “Whore” is a refreshing collection of six monologues, based on street sex workers in New Zealand. Tucked away at the end of Auckland’s notorious K-Road is Lifewise Merge café, which up until November 2010, was a soup kitchen. This is where the “Whore” journey begins. Offered a “do I look like a whore?” badge and paper cup of minestrone soup, I felt at home instantly- warmth, stability and respect radiating from the Lifewise staff; a true testament to their dedication to the “Whore” cause.

Seated on wooden pews, the audience is intimate, yet tis this intimacy that makes the “Whore” experience that much more impacting. Harrowing music plays as we take our seat- two half naked live performers roaming through the audience, offering their bodies in exchange for cash, creating an awkward yet apt foreshadowing of what is to follow.

Over the next hour we meet our six characters; rent boy, illegal migrant, refugee, married woman, underage street worker and transgender. Played by three actors with a simple change of furniture, the small space the cast inhabits is transformed accordingly. Over the course of the production there is a roller coaster of emotion, the actor’s honesty apparent through every sigh, twitch of the jaw and rattle in their voice. It was these subtleties that made the play what is was. “Whore” was believable as hell; I wasn’t sitting in a café watching theatre, I was sitting in on a support group at Lifewise. There was sorrow, there were nerves- even laughter, but more than anything, there was understanding.

“The only difference between you and I- is I have sex and get paid cold cash”; a powerful piece of prose from the ‘Married Worker’. Who are we to judge street workers on their vocation when we are marginalized everyday, just in different ways? This production is not here to expose unknown truths of prostitution. It is here to normalize and de-stigmatize what you might believe about sex work. This production is to challenge one to think more actively about what we see everyday on K-Road and how we as a society can create more opportunities for those struggling. It’s here to raise awareness on an issue, which is damaging and dangerous. It’s a cry for help and a scream for change.

Do you still think sex work is a choice?

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