Like Hula House, Menage hopes to add complexity to a narrative of sex work that tends to indulge in stereotypes. Unlike Hula House, its method is entirely discreet. Its focus much more specific; Menage targets the women behind the Edinburgh crack down on saunas and it does so in a neat performance that is immersive yet carefully draws the boundaries between audience and performer.
Menage is brimming with tricks that its haunting exposition prevent from being gimmicky. Everything, even the toys arranged in the cupboard and the appearance from The Velvet Underground, has been chosen and placed precisely. The actress, changing each time to create a truly unique performance for each person, is remarkably comfortable. Giggling over anecdotes about clients, she is almost patronising in her dismissal of how society can view sex work – “it’s funny how everyone thinks to go into this industry your dad must have fiddled with you!” Telling us about her son, her clients and her struggles, there is a foundation of sadness underpinning her monologue. Menage is thought-provoking without being shocking, and a result of beautiful acting and composition.
Roxanna (her name changes with every new paragraph of speech) tells us her work is about intimacy. With only two people in the audience, grasping fresh mugs of tea in our hands, and the actress staring directly into our eyes, the show’s form reflects its message right down to its cheekily confusing name.
The doorbell trills and ‘Roxanna’ has to go. She moves swiftly to the bathroom, and after hesitating, not sure how to reconcile our role as audience and guest, we are left to show ourselves out.