COME AGAIN in conversation with writer & actor, Alison Stanley part 1/2

“After the first night Radio Newcastle were talking about the show with music from The Full Monty film in the background. The reporter said it’s so immersive even from when you go in to take your seat the playlist includes raunchy songs. We also have a friend who is a burlesque dancer handing out sanitizer to the audience”.

The new play by Stanley is Sex is Hard Work based on real life sex workers and their stories. The show played over six nights in June at Newcastle Cluny. I asked the writer how she thought the show was received.

The show was everything I could of hoped for and more. We done the tests for covid everyday and were hoping everything would be ok and luckily it was. The venue which is a music venue really, had everything organised and it worked well for the stage, we sold out with standing ovations on two nights.

People were also really glad to get out and see a live performance. They were at the bars and restaurants before the show and sitting around the bars for a drink afterwards. It was really nice to see that.

The actors were great they knew each other’s parts so if anything happened like a positive test, they could easily do a bit of improvisation and keep the show running. We got plenty feedback and good reviews with four out of five stars.

The audiences were varied with a group of older ladies in their 70’s that loved it. One of them asked an actor if he got a physical reaction during the simulated sex scenes (laughs).

PUTTING ON A SHOW

In fact we’ve been asked back to do a for one night only on 19 August which will be great as there will be no social distancing then. That will set us up for a short UK tour next year, we are in talks with certain venues to take the show.

For now we are looking at two nights each in Newcastle, Manchester and London. Then see where else we can get scheduled with venues opening back up.

I will be slightly tweaking some scenes, I think you’ve got to have an end point but they make it better. Up to now it’s been a pilot really and a few additions will happen for the UK tour. If it enhances the performance why not?

Alison Stanley, pic. 2021.

YEAH, WE’VE DONE THAT

The first half of the show is a series of scenes and anecdotes where people can connect straightaway and laugh out loud saying yeah we’ve done that. But in the second half one of the sex workers is in trouble and it gets more serious, a bit of darkness edging in.

In feedback some people said they almost felt guilty for laughing at situations that turned out to be serious, but I like challenging the audience. There is some violence and the prostitutes end up hurt and broken.

When writing I don’t censor myself. For the opening I wrote a hook to grab the audience and set the tone for the whole show, it was a simulated sex scene – some people couldn’t look the actors in the eye (laughs).

The show is advertised with an age limit on it and with the word sex in the title I don’t think the more gentle people will come to see it. I use appropriate language and not gratuitous swearing.

THE SHOW GOES ON

For production of the show we always work on a three quarters full show so pricing of actors, ticket prices, stage set, venue hire, everything comes into that. A massive sold out stamp across the posters is great anybody would want that, but you’ve got to be realistic about it.

You want to make a profit, for another of our shows we sold merchandise at the end. There was cups with lines from the script on, one had ‘I baked a chocolate cake once, but I’m not Mary fuckin’ Berry’.

For Broadway I can see Sex playing there, yeah love to see that, why not ? These characters are too good to not be seen. I would rather fail than not try. I’m not afraid of failing, it’s a step on the way to success. I can’t live with regret, thinking ‘if only’. In life you have to be fearless.

‘Sex is Hard Work’ is on at Newcastle Cluny 19 August 2021.

The Cluny, 36 Lime St, Ouseburn. NE1 2PQ (tel: 0191 230 44 74)

Tickets:   https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/sex-is-hard-work-cluny-2-tickets/11214755

Interview by Gary Alikivi  July 2021