Nicole Henriksen is an Aussie comedian and stripper and in this show, which harnesses skills from both professions, she gives the audience a clear rundown of what they’re going to get and how they should respond. There will be funny bits - “you’re allowed to laugh” - and some serious bits, through which we should just sit quietly and listen, as Henriksen gives us a frank look behind the scenes at life as a stripper. She will not apologise and she will not sugar-coat.
A performance that is personal, compelling and relentlessly real.
Addressing all the areas of curiosity one might have about this line of work, Henriksen speaks to the audience with candid sincerity. She is relaxed and direct, so that the story she tells feels like a conversation with friends over a glass of wine. While the show is not designed as comedy, her natural comedic talent develops a strong rapport with the audience, so that everyone is quickly put at ease. We learn about her pay, the reactions of her family and friends, the conversations she has with clients and the songs she most loves dancing to. Henriksen is an engaging performer, but the show could definitely benefit from being cut down, as she occasionally loses the audience’s attention. Greater concision would help maintain the show’s focus for its entirety.
Punctuating the performance are strip routines that are both impressive and entertaining - although at first take the audience by surprise. There is an interesting disjunction between the intimate dorky-ness of Henriksen’s storytelling and the erotic aloofness of her dances. In each dance she takes off another item of clothing in a performance that is captivatingly sexy; but as she picks up the thread of her narrative again, her increasing nudity is like a mask falling away. She becomes more vulnerable as the material she discusses swells in poignancy.
An especially important part of the show is Henriksen’s discussion of the noxious hierarchy that sets sex workers apart from the “well-behaved” women of society, and which silently places sex workers on a spectrum of deviance, from stripper down to streetwalker. This is a woman refusing to join the chorus of voices telling other women they are not good enough, and encouraging us to do the same.
If you are of the opinion that sex work is intrinsically demeaning for women, go to this show and let Nicole Henriksen convince you otherwise in a performance that is personal, compelling and relentlessly real.