Naked in Alaska is based on the life story of Valerie Hager, also known as Val, also known as Autumn. We find her recently evicted and clean from a youth of crystal meth, embarking on a journey that will change her forever. Val is the shy, shrinking violet to her painfully cool best friend Raven, who introduces her into the world of erotic dancing. The piece charts Val’s transformation from her shaky first days dancing in a club in Tiujana, through a move to Alaska and her rocky relationship with Raven, to the confident woman she eventually grows into.
In this one woman show, flashbacks, fight scenes, love scenes and dancing paint the picture of Val’s rise to the top of the pole, and the sacrifices she has to make in order to find herself. So often are club dancers relegated to decorative roles in detective movies; Naked in Alaska is a gritty, candid look at the world of erotic dancing told from the woman’s point of view, made all the more poignant by the fact that it is Hager’s true story.
Naive Val doesn’t seem to realise that the glamour of her life is paper-thin, its seediness seeping through the cracks in its facade. Living in a trailer behind a strip club with a man who abuses her, her refusal to relinquish the belief that she is living the high life is tragic, and Hager’s portrait of a woman desperate not to be a victim is heart-breaking.
Hager’s talent for character portrayal appears to be endless as she enacts entire conversations between two, sometimes three people. She is an incredibly versatile and compelling performer. Through her candid storytelling and impressive pole-dancing acrobatics, we fall in love with her. It is only too sad that the immense talent she displays is marred by the sleazy connotations of pole dancing and the harassment she has to put up with from client after client.
Naked in Alaska is a visual masterpiece: Hager cannot stay still for longer than a few seconds and her energetic performance is accompanied by an audiovisual feast. Dynamically performed and produced with flair, Naked in Alaska is an honest, funny and fast-paced walk on the wild side.
Naked in Alaska plays at Assembly Roxy on 12 – 17 and 19 – 25 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. For tickets and more information see the Edinburgh Fringe website.