Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Dry Ice

Sabrina Mahfouz
Underbelly

Sabrina Mahfouz is a playwright and performance poet, who herself worked as a stripper for several years. She adapts her personal experience to create this short, funny, acidic show about the messy details of the stripping trade. It's a pretty rough sort of poetry, rhyming and riding through a complicated series of rhythms, and the delivery's machine-gun sharp.

It's very entertaining on the subject of the strip club's various clientele, from regular laddish types to leches to secret millionnaires to guilt-ridden hippy sorts who end up wanting to hear the womens' life stories and to understand how they could have come to degrade themselves like this. "What does your mother think?" Mahfouz apes them saying. Obviously this doesn't impress her much; of course she doesn't express her withering scorn, but inside she's thinking "I don't know, what does your mother think?"

The show is refreshingly frank and basically unbothered about the details it conveys - it's utterly without a moral standpoint on the subject of stripping itself; the one thing it is really firm on is its rejection of hypocrisy.

This is fine of course, but it does leave us slightly unsure as to the purpose of the show. If we're not supposed to pass any sort of moral judgement, like the hypocritical customer who pretends to care, what do we take away from it?

The piece doesn't seek to influence what we think about the stripping industry, only to give us some engaging stories to prove that real stuff, both interesting and mundane, happens to women in this trade as much as any other. But on these terms it works well, and Mahfouz is a fantastic performer, easily propelling us through 45 minutes of micro-dramas and re-enactments of scenes perhaps from her own experience.

The dinner party with a variety of outraged, accepting and titillated middle-class guests is a particular highlight. And her boyfriend's pitch at the dinner table about the honour of street art (he has a Banksy-esque piece in the boot of his car that he's trying to sell) is another skewering of how the more comfortably-off are often fascinated by such subcultures with their whiffs of "grime" and "authenticity". Is this us? Wisely, Mahfouz leaves the unspoken question hovering in the air. As a performer she's untouchable.

Reviewer: Corinne Salisbury