Not seedy but moving
Stripped is an extraordinarily brave play. Based on writer/performer Hannah Chalmers' own experiences as a lap dancer, it is a fictional story that exposes the seedier side of glamour, a one woman show with multiple voices that does not moralise and suggests that Chalmer has an original dramatic voice.
Slipping between characters, from a lascivious club owner to a gentleman customer, Stripped tells the redemptive story of Baby, a naive young woman who finds herself on the margins of prostitution and theft. Her initial optimism is soon revealed as stupid innocence, and even as she is dragged into danger and criminality, her fundamental integrity is not damaged.
Chalmers gives the hour a traditional arc: despite the subject matter, this is neither dark trawl through the underworld nor comic misadventure. It is a serious attempt to offer a partial vision of lap-dancing, the women involved and the allure of easy money.
When Chalmers spoke about the play, she was clear that this was not her story, but based on real characters and experiences. She has gathered her own time as a lap dancer and turned it into an engaging plot, redemptive and witty, mocking her memories of the multiple house-rules, the cynicism of the dancers and the attitude towards me that it encouraged in her
A strong debut performance, it falters a little in the structure: the character develops little, and the plot lurches. There is also a slight tendency to caricature each personality - ideal for quick reference but limiting the dramatic impact.
Chalmers catches the individual voices, revealing the slow acclimatisation to the lifestyle, and her energy drives the hour along. The scene of her first dance - the only time she gets close to the actual act of lap dancing - is elegantly comic, and the final, tentative, resolution is suitably moving.
Gilded Ballon, 4- 30 Aug 2010, 4.15pm, £10http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coSx5gbVmEk