Bella Green is Charging For It won Best Comedy at Melbourne Fringe in 2018, and after selling out a number of shows and receiving rave reviews in Perth and Adelaide, Bella Green is bringing her debut show back for a spin at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Green is an easy-going storyteller, the kind who loves to deploy a good eye-brow raise to emphasise when she’s getting to the good bit. Green has a cheeky warmth that’s instantly endearing. Like most comedians, Green is unafraid to shame dudes hitting her up for sex, only this time she only does it when they’re particularly bad at negotiating a booking. There’s some excellent audio-visual gags, though they can be a little hampered by technical issues. The on-screen text messages are a neat device to keep the laughs going while Green ducks off stage for a costume change.
The costume changes are a little protracted, and there are some sketches that don’t land as effectively as others. This is largely because Green is somewhat unpolished, and it’s clear from her cadence she hasn’t been doing stand up for very long. A lot of the laughs in the show are laughs of recognition rather than the result of killer punchlines – that particularly pained, relieved kind of laughter that says ‘thank god someone is talking about this, joking about this.’ There’s a raw power to these stories. That’s not to say that the show is devoid of punchlines, and there’s even an almost-can’t-breathe-its-so-funny moment or two. The stand-up sections of the show in particular are far more consistent in delivering laughs, and Green can trust the audience’s interest in the story and build to the punchline.
On any given night the audience seems to be about 30 per cent former or current sex workers, but that’s an estimate based on how hard certain people laughed at certain points. It can’t be based on anything else – a strong undercurrent of this show is how it proves that sex workers are everywhere, and you can’t make assumptions about who does it and why they do it. If you do make those assumptions, you’re liable to end up as a punchline in a show just like this. Part of the joy of Bella Green is Charging for It though is that while the show is clearly feminist, pro-sex work and unashamedly honest, there’s no tropey shock-value to be had here, no voyeuristic giggles. These jokes aren’t set ups to allow the audience to revel in something that is usually taboo. These are jokes about work – about sex work as a job, about brothels as an office and madams as bad people managers.
Bella Green is Charging For It is the kind of debut comedy festival show that deserves your support: a talented newcomer using comedy as a medium to tell stories about an interesting topic, all while finding her voice and making you laugh. And she’s only charging $30 for it.
Bella Green is Charging for It is on at 10pm at the Butterfly Club until 11 April as part of the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets, show details and accessibility information can be found via the comedy festival website.