Traumboy

In Traumboy, his one-man show about his experiences as a gay male prostitute, Daniel Hellmann emerges as a performer that is as eloquent with his voice as he is with his body. The show’s engrossing, effortless oscillation between cheeky comedy, unrelenting honesty and cathartic sexuality sets the stage for the audience to look at themselves and their prejudices with as much introspection as Hellmann himself seems to be capable of.

A therapeutic, cathartic, sex-positive piece of theatre.

Hellmann’s versatile performance is hypnotising, his confessions poignant, and his candour refreshing. The show is a smorgasbord of pertinent dialogue, camp song and dance, and intense conversation that leaves the audience feeling like they’ve attended a group therapy session – in a good way. Most importantly, this is a performer that is not just passively comfortable with his sexuality, but who knows how to actively use it to get what he wants and say what he needs. It’s a joy to witness.

Traumboy is a politically relevant call to look past prejudice. The aim of Hellmann’s game is to show that there is happiness and fulfilment to be found in sex work. He invites us to live vicariously through him, to the point where we end up charmed by the complex character before us and – by extension – his work. He presents himself as vulnerable and naked, both figuratively and literally, in a piece of theatre that is as important as it is entertaining, if only to illuminate the lives of people we rarely hear about. And yet, despite his musings about race and privilege at the start of the show, Hellmann’s rose-tinted experiences with prostitution in Zurich and Berlin can’t be as universal as he presents them to be; I cannot help but contrast his debaucherous adventures with the Paris-Is-Burning-esque experiences of black and trans sex workers. Nonetheless, claims of promiscuity have always been used to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, and Hellmann finds power in embracing and nuancing, rather than rejecting, this stereotype.

Hellmann’s taboo-free rapport with his audience is delightful. He displays his phone number on stage, and implores us to text him any questions we may have throughout the show. These anonymous interactions give rise to the piece’s funniest and frankest moments. This comfortable relationship grows to lull people into reflecting out loud on their sexual desires and fantasies and answering difficult questions with inward-looking honesty – the mood du jour. The audience being made to read Hellmann’s outrageous client reviews aloud was particularly excellent.

That said, there remains an addictive tension to the performer’s relationship with his audience. The show opens with Hellmann detailing his traumatic first encounter with sex work, and then poking fun at us for believing him. As this Jewish man discusses the various identities that he has constructed for himself – the mysterious Italian, the ‘exotic’ Algerian - we cannot help but wonder if we are being told the truth, or if this is just a seductive character. Don’t be fooled, though – despite it feeling like more of a conversation than a performance at times, this is very much Hellmann’s show, and we have very much paid for it, which makes us equivalent to his voyeuristic clients – a point which he drives home with a ‘gift’ to finish off his performance. We feel like we know him intimately, yet have a nudging feeling that we know nothing at all. I challenge you to figure him out.

At times, it feels like Hellmann is preaching to the choir. His political statements aren’t always clear, and the expected indignant responses to his stories never materialise – this is the Fringe after all, and the audience gobbles up every scandalous tale and dance number with fervour. “Let us be whores” he demands, though by this point, nobody in the Summerhall theatre is trying to stop him.

Daniel Hellmann’s Traumboy is a therapeutic, cathartic, sex-positive piece of theatre. To quote one of Hellmannn’s client reviews, “you just can’t get him out of your head”.

Reviews by Solal Bauer

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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Daniel is an artist. He is also a sex worker. Through accounts of clients and their desires, Traumboy explores why he chose this profession and why having sex for money is still considered taboo. Told with humour and honesty, this interactive performance challenges audiences to scrutinise their own sexual ideals and appetites, as Daniel performs different roles for his customers – and the audience. Where do your boundaries lie? Traumboy is performed in response to Anne Welenc's Traumgirl: a performance from the perspective of a female sex worker. Part of Pro Helvetia's Swiss Selection Edinburgh.

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