The placard is scrawled in lipstick pink: “Sex work is real work.” Joana Nastari’s strident solo show leaves little doubt. A bare-all account of a lapdancer’s life, fictional but based on lived experience, Fuck You Pay Me strips stripping back to its basic transaction. Behind all the stigma, beneath the alluring facade, it’s a profession like any other. It takes skills, sales techniques and plenty of stress.
Nastari peels back the glitter curtain on a life that’s neither glam, nor grim, just mostly mundane: fag breaks, blisters, hangovers, daydreams. She shows us an act: how "Holly" cocks her hips, pushes her chest and speaks squeaky (“the sound of me putting myself beneath you”). At work, she’s everything to all men: a fantasy made flesh, “a therapist in heels". At home, she slobs about in sweatpants and thinks about how she’s going to tell her mum.
The show is sharpest on the economics of stripping – from £20/song rates (most goes to the club) to fines for phone usage and chewing gum. Late capitalism, eh? Club closures up competition and drop earnings. Her iPhone’s insistent interruptions signify what all those tips pay for.
But in itemising each lap dance—two hair flicks, eight hip switches, one pussy grab—Nastari deconstructs, desexualises and commodifies them. It’s radical. Ending on a dance (her motto’s "no shame"), you don’t see a striptease, but a woman who’s really good at her job. It’s rough round the edges, but this is a show with a cause.