The Sex Workers’ Opera Returns for International Women’s Day

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European Regional Correspondent
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Sex Workers' Opera goes to Arcola Theatre January 2015

Following January’s sold-out run of shows at the Arcola Theatre, London, the Sex Workers’ Opera is returning for a one-off performance to mark International Women’s Day 2015. The Sex Workers Opera say that the performance, which will be held in the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama on March 7th, sold out “before we even got a chance to promote it” but extra tickets may become available nearer the date.

The Sex Workers’ Opera describe their project as “a multimedia production co-created and performed by sex workers and their allies” – although they make sure that sex workers are best-represented by requiring allies to be vouched by a sex worker and by making sure that the number of allies in the group does not exceed fifty percent. The group welcomes sex workers of all backgrounds to join, regardless of whether or not they have experience in the performing arts, and shares any profits equally among participants. Their productions aim to break through stigma and stereotypes and anonymity is guaranteed for those who request it.

The project is partially supported by the Goldsmiths Annual Fund, the Royal Opera House and a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. 

“Opera is seen by many to be an antiquated elitist institution.” The Sex Workers’ Opera state at their website. “Though opera does depict the lives of diverse people, when depicting the oppressed, they are generally never depicted in the words of the oppressed but rather through the interpretation of privileged writers, directors and actors.

“This is why we wish to enable Sex Workers to use music, dancing, poetry and theatre to tell their stories themselves, be they positive, negative, joyful, painful or complex mixes of the above. It will span across musical genres, giving space for Classical, Jazz, Pop, Hip Hop and Spoken Word.”

In an interview last year with the Independent the directors acknowledged the difficulty in producing something representative of the sex trades. "Though we have reached out, we've had to come to terms with the fact that those for whom sex work was not a choice may not want to take part," Co-director Siobhan Knox said. "That's why the call-out for diverse experiences is so important in balancing the stories told on stage."

The groups’ call for stories resulted in submissions from around the world, which can be read at the site. Performances included Skyping sex worker groups in Chile and using such multimedia as projections of webcam models in the United States and Brazil. At the end of last year the group won the “Pioneer” award at the Sexual Freedom Awards.

The creators of the Sex Workers’ Opera have another project, a radical theatre movement called Experimental Experience, whose production XX Happening I: A Tale of Two Scarves, will take place on March 5.