Telling their own story – looking at the strippers who write and produce theatre


Stepping onto a different stage are Strippers who write and produce theatre.  In today’s culture, everyone is obsessed with sex, but when do we hear the sex workers and strippers telling their own story?  In the last few years, the women and men who work in these industries have written, produced and directed shows which are personal, truthful and free of sloppy assumptions.

This week sees ‘Fuck you, Pay me’, an explosive debut at the Vault Festival by Jo Nastari, a solo artist who has created a show ‘for strippers, by strippers – it’s STRIP-theatre’.

Stripping is often seen as modern witchcraft – divine, beautiful women enticing passing men to part with their cash before floating away on towering crystal heels.  Our smooth shimmering skin is to be looked at, fawned over, caressed – but we aren’t mere humans, we are a fantasy. But behind this facade, what is the daily reality of being a woman trying to pay her rent by embodying this ideal?

Jo explains ‘I’m saying F**k you’ to the happy hooker, tragedy porn narratives’.

Ahh, these tired ol’tropes where women from troubled backgrounds and lost ambition meander onto the TV screens only to be killed a third of the way into the drama.  Or the sex crazed happy hookers, who embrace being a subservient slut for the patriarchy as they earn huge wads of cash every night, easily and effortlessly, to pay their way through university.  Jo’s directorial debut is a joyous laugh at the funny side – trying to be glamorous on a cheap budget, working amongst dozens of other women, the soul searching and self-help books stuffed in messy lives.

‘Fuck You, Pay me’ is on at the Vault’s – an uber-cool underground space in Waterloo, from 24th to 28th January. Book tickets here.

Last year I watched Nicole Henriksen  , an outspoken Australian dancer and you-tube comic, whose show ‘Making it Rain‘ has been at festivals, toured Australia and had a weeks run at the Kings Head Theatre in Islington.

“For those who don’t know me, I’m Nicole, I make theatre shows and I’ve been stripping for three years, here in the UK, and previously in my native Australia, cause art doesn’t pay”

She had carefully crafted a narrative looking at her battles against depression and body image versus her emerging sexual identity as a confident stripper. Starting off as a beautiful and divine female presence, to shaven-headed and bare bodied feminist warrior, it was raw, heartfelt and rang true for the girl-squad of stripper pals I’d gone to see it with.

The opportunity to make shows like these is in part down to the popularity of the ‘Sex Workers Opera’, which ran from 2014 and toured the UK in 2017.  Experimental Experience used funding from the Arts Council to hold a series of workshops with strippers, porn stars, escorts, cam girls and boys – as well as collecting stories from all over the globe.  In a fusion of hip hop, opera and sound art, these sex workers not only found their voice, but sang their stories loud and proud to packed theatres.

“You say that sex is all you see, well then I think you see me in 2D because the actual reality is a mosaic blur – a tapestry.”  Anon from Sex Worker’s opera

It’s shows like these strippers who write and produce theatre which get me so excited.  Exotic dancers are used to performing in high heels and neon bikinis, but it’s a different challenge to delve into your soul and reveal the person behind the stripper in front of a theatre audience.   I hide behind a secret virtual identity to write this blog after scurrying backstage.  Women who are both sexual feminists and modern witches – I salute you.



About author


Sassy by name, Sassy by nature, I write to explode the myths which surround the lapdancing profession - standing up for the clubs, the girls and the customers. Its not always drinking champagne and playing with my tits - it can be hassle, hustling and hangovers. At heart I'm just a regular twenty-something posh cockney living in London who likes taking her clothes off...

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