This piece was a creative, brave and fantastically directed testament to the Bristol based charity One25 which helps street sex workers break free from their traumatic and dangerous lives. The play combined the testimonials of a number of women who were helped by the charity interwoven with group scenes which addressed the stereotypes and misgivings about prostitution. Singing and music also featured to great effect – it was stylishly executed and heightened emotion in this hugely powerful performance.
The play opened with an online forum conversation between anonymous males – each with an idiotic but depressingly realistic profile name. An investment banker spoke of how he is ‘forced’ to use prostitutes due to his obscenely long work hours and they casually discussed a means of budgeting this addiction. The macho masculinist language was comical but struck deep notes in revealing attitudes and misconceptions about prostitution. In a strong contrast, the actresses also performed interactions between young girls in their ignorance, using offensive female labels in their youthful games.
The contrast between these lively group scenes and the powerful monologues also worked extremely well in conveying the disturbing nature of many people’s attitudes towards prostitution. Each actress was emotionally connected to the woman whose story they were telling, using material from real interviews. They found their individual characters and told their own unique story with sensitivity and compassion. For one woman, it was ‘drink and drugs instead of English and Maths’; another had been to university but had simply been ‘scared to engage with the world’. Yet whilst each account was different, common elements existed between them all – heroin, a familiarity with danger and death, and a need to feel loved by someone. All the women also came from abusive backgrounds and had ended up on the streets after a downward spiral of traumatic events.
However, the most important connection between all these women was the One25 van which was literally a ‘life saver’ for many. The ‘little seeds of hope’ planted by this amazing charity has given women the courage and support to come off the streets. In fact, in the last year fifty-five women have exited street work on account of their action. Their gratitude was best expressed by the recording of one woman’s interview which was played towards the end: she spoke of the unfathomable changes in her life and her hopes for her own daughter. Another woman is now an award winning playwright.
The ultimate success of this play lay in the actresses’ real sorrow and compassion towards the women who had bravely told their harrowing life stories. The audience could feel their genuine emotion and furthermore, their desire to help One25 continue their amazing work. Wonderfully acted and produced, but most importantly, a play with real meaning and heart.