The Bunker’s Fuck You, Pay Me attempts to explore the intricacies of sex work through the story of Bea, a young stripper, facing the terrifying prospect of her mother’s discovering what she does for a living. The drama revolves around Bea’s fear of rejection from her mother with her phone (played by the hilarious Charlotte Bickley) constantly chiming in with missed calls, texts and a dubiously useful commentary.
Whilst this topic has brilliant potential, the way sex work and allyship is presented seems very narrow. The term ‘sex work’ is used throughout, despite the play only addressing issues surrounding stripping and ignoring the wider issues of pornography and prostitution, apart from a small aside at the start. This simplification of the complex issue continues throughout. There is an acknowledgement of the exploitation and lack of regulation on stripping and then a constant push to normalise this exploitation, arguing that any job under capitalism is exploitative. These arguments are not explored in enough depth for the audience to truly grasp why the writer (Joana Nastari) has come to the conclusions she presents.
The preachy arguments in Fuck You Pay Me left the play lacking depth. Whilst making a statement to acknowledge strippers humanity and autonomy over their bodies is an important message, the lack of exploration of feminist qualms with stripping made the performance less strong overall. Addressing these critiques, rather than let them linger, would have strengthened the message of the show and added nuance to a play that often slipped into moralising.
Joana Nastari is an incredible actress, embodying multiple characters and doing a sublime dance at the end of the show. The plot included interesting psychedelic elements and mixed media on stage. However, the plot seemed to lack a true sense of Bea’s relationship with her mother whose perceived position on Bea’s stripping seems to switch from all bad to all good without any real sense to the audience of how it got there. Bea’s interpersonal relationships with the other strippers could also have been developed further particularly as Nastari sights the personal relationships between sex workers as her main inspiration to defend the industry.
This play was enjoyable with strong stage presence from all the characters. However, I would love to see Nastari try to explore these issues with more depth and complexity in her future work as occasionally the play felt like it erred more on the side of pious reciting of bullet points than a multilayered and engaging drama.
Fuck You Pay Me is on at The Bunker until the 19th of May and tickets are available here.
Edited by Dimitrina Dyakova, Deputy Digital Editor