Monday 12 September 2016

ménage - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

I recently spoke to Ryan Good about two shows he will be performing during the Melbourne Fringe Festival: COSMOnaut and Stupid and Contagious. Well Good is also presenting a third show called ménage, which is an intimate look at the world of sex workers. The show is performed for only two people at a time and was written based on dialogue from interviews he had with sex workers in Edinburgh, London and Australia.

"The idea came to me while I was performing in Edinburgh in 2013.  I was in two shows with a tight turnaround so I used to cut through a back alley to save time and in that alley was a little door and a sign that said 'Sauna No. 61'," Good recalls. "I thought it would be interesting to set a show there, so I returned a few months later to begin the project and discovered that business and a lot of other sex work locations had been shut down due to new enforcement of laws cracking down on brothels.  That drove me to read more on what was happening there and I discovered lots of concern about the safety of the people in the industry, many of whom were now working on the streets or alone in flats.  Getting their issue heard was the initial driving force of the show."

"Then I conducted interviews with sex workers in Australia and the UK and started to get an understanding of the complexities within this industry.  And my research and interest snowballed from there over the past two years. Those interviews are the only text used in the show, so I hope it reaches a different level of honesty than it would if I had tried to imagine the character."

ménage rotates two actors throughout its season, Melbourne based Jess Stanley and Claire-Maria Fox who will be reprising her role after premiering it in Edinburgh. "What drew me to the role was the honesty of the script," Fox says. "Hearing the women's stories in their own words rather than someone's interpretation of them. I have always been interested in the lives of sex workers and felt this was a way of making them heard as people rather than just a stereotype."

Due to the intimate nature of the show, both in terms of topic and the fact that there are only two people in the room with Fox, I am curious to hear what reactions she receives from the audience. "It varies from each show. It was always funny when a couple came in and the girlfriend would give me evils as though I was about to pounce on her boyfriend! So I would make it my mission to charm her and really win her over," she says. "I think the show moves everyone in different ways though, some laugh some cry, it's a pretty personal experience." 

The sentiment is shared by Good as to why he devised ménage to be shown to two people at a time. "I knew I wanted to do something that mirrored the purchased intimacy that comes from buying time with a sex worker and I was intrigued to find out what would happen if you made it a "performative threesome" as I call it," he explains. "We've discovered playing to two people is very different than playing to one, or obviously playing to a larger crowd.  It's an intimate experience but not an isolating one for an audience member I hope."


If you had to name your child after a vegetable what would it be?


Which reality TV show would you most like to appear/compete on?
Survivor Second Chances (google it - it's the kid's version of the game and it's an absolute car wreck.  I would go on it to steal the children and take them to DisneyLand or something)

The most irritating habit I have is not answering the "which reality TV show..." question like a normal person despite two chances.

What's a song that sums up your life?

"Blue Train" by Coltrane

During Fringe, I really, really, really want to get into exciting debates on the issues discussed in our shows. And figure out how to walk places without getting lost.

Venue: Fringe Hub - Arts House, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, 3051
eason: 16 September - 1 October | Tues - Sun sessions starts every 45 mins between 5.30pm and 10.15pm
Length: 25 minutes

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc/Cheap Tuesday | $22 Groups 6+
Bookings: MelbourneFringe Festival

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