Sex Workers' Opera celebrates 'incredible' first night

29 May 2014, 12:06 | Updated: 18 September 2014, 15:23

An opera written and performed by a cast of sex workers debuted in London last night.

The opera, simply titled The Sex Workers' Opera, had its first performance at the Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton, East London.

The cast of the opera is partly made up of workers in the sex industry, who contributed their experiences to the writing process and are mixed in with the rest of the cast to preserve anonymity. 

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Some members went as far as wearing masks to ensure their identities remained a secret. Escorts, porn stars and webcam users were all among those who contributed stories to the opera's narrative.

The production was funded mostly as a result of an online Kickstarter campaign, which managed to exceed its target.

Co-directors Alex Etchart and Siobhan Knox answered our questions after the success of the first night:

How do you feel after the success of the first night?
"We can honestly say that it was incredible. We say this without false humility because we know how much every member of the team rose up to the challenge of creating a fully fledged production in three days having only just met for the first time on Monday. We had a really receptive audience, laughter and tears in equal measure and the whole room singing together at the end."

What plans do you have to take the Sex Workers' Opera further?
"We've had considerable interest in the UK and the US to take this show on the road. This is a subtle issue - we are a community group with our own lives to get back to.

One model would be to port the workshops to local Sex Worker groups and their allies and create a variation on a theme involving their experiences and creativity. However, if it really took off and the present team were prepared to drop everything else and jump in the van, we could hardly say no.

In all honesty, with only two of us co-producing and co-directing, we've been so focused on making this one incarnation happen as effectively and ethically as possible that we haven't fully explored future possibilities. But rest assured, this is only a beginning."

Why is this an important work?
"This project is as much about giving a personal human voice to a team of Sex Workers through workshops as it is about exposing a public audience to a hidden world to challenge stigma and stereotypes. Many of us had never sung or been on stage before and many of us have discovered hidden talents throughout the process.

It questions assumptions around power and agency, with scenes by professional dominatrixes, professional submissives, streetwalkers who saved their client's marriages and one scene based on the Soho Raids last year - where freelance Sex Workers were dragged into the street by the police, some half naked, to be exposed by the press on the premise of being 'saved' from trafficking and coercion.

By involving unscripted personal stories and ones sent in from across the UK, Eastern Europe, Latin America the US and beyond - including a video by 4 online cam models - it seeks to be a living breathing multimedia production giving global voice."

The Sex Workers' Opera continues tonight at the Courtyard Theatre.