When we picked up our tickets to Mira Fuchs at the North Melbourne Town Hall we were asked to sign off on being filmed, and we figured we’d just hide up the back of the audience where it wouldn’t matter. As we walked into the venue, though, we realised we were going to be filling the few dozen chairs arranged in a circle around a largeish dancefloor: there was nowhere to hide, and Mira Fuchs was not the kind of show that was going to let us.
From the moment Mira walked in she commanded the room, and she played with audience expectations with the expertise of someone who has spent a good deal of time working out what people want, then deciding whether or not to give it to them. The show wasn’t about confronting the audience, nor was it about comforting them: the adult content warning made sense very early on as she got unceremoniously stripped down on stage but immediately put on a skin-coloured body stocking, blurring the line of nudity and playing with the idea of stripping.
This theme flowed through the whole show as she systematically took the sex out of sex work and made the audience see it how it really is: work. Work that’s sometimes funny, sometimes dull, often repetitive and always, at the end of the day, work. She talked about money, about sex, about drugs, about regular clients and regular ‘types’ and about how the one thing that everyone spends is time. She navigated these concepts and conversations with skill and ease, mixing together a dry analysis of stripping with stripping itself to give the audience a peek into the life of a stripper and the unique-but-familiar ecosystem of the strip club.
That said, some parts ran slightly too long, and the strobe lighting scene in particular was headache-inducing to the point of nausea (there is a warning about strobes at the beginning and in the literature but I always forget how badly I react to them). The audience was slightly too big for what the show was trying to do as well – losing a dozen people would have shrunk the circle enough to mean nobody felt distanced from the action, which happened a couple of times when Mira was on the other side of the room.
Despite this, Mira herself is one of the most engaging and charming performers I’ve seen – and she knows it. She makes the room entirely her own, and as much as I wanted to watch the crowd and their reactions to the show it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off her. She’s also absolutely hilarious: her dry stabs at clients, the industry and herself had the crowd in stitches.
With sex work of all kinds being debated all over the world, Mira Fuchs does what so many other discussions fail to do: puts the workers themselves front and centre, and gives their voices a microphone. Mira’s experiences may not be indicative of all strippers’ experiences (does any worker in any industry have an identical experience to all of their coworkers?) but they are her individual, authentic experiences and it is in these experiences and their telling that we will learn the most about the industry and its ups and downs.
Mira Fuchs has finished its run but hopefully the recording of the show will be available online in the near future.