Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Amy is a sex worker. Her sister, Rosana, is a shaven-headed lesbian. They are both feminists. In Sister they present a bold and unflinching examination of themselves: their family bonds, shared experiences, and the differing paths their lives have taken. Sister is a powerful and joyous performance exploring feminism and choice.
Amy is a sex worker and Rosana is a lesbian. The way this is framed in the publicity material slightly suggests that the two things are mutually exclusive, which of course they’re not, and is not the point of the show. However, what the show explores through the juxtaposition of these two facts are incredibly important questions around sexuality, ideas of femininity and feminism.
The show begins with the sisters, dressed identically in red wigs and skimpy underwear, giving two audience members a lap dance. We are quickly exposed to their naked bodies and these remain unashamedly on display throughout most of the rest of the show. There is something wonderfully liberating about their nudity and the extent to which it is on view. At first somewhat shocking, as the girls writhe on the floor or dance on the pole, leaving nothing to the imagination, soon their nudity becomes commonplace, comfortable even and gives their words vulnerability and meaning that wouldn’t be there if they were clothed. Their adult nakedness is also contextualised by the video footage that plays behind, featuring the sisters as young children, playing naked in paddling pools and gardens. Seeing these uninhibited, joyful children dancing in the nude is an interesting counterpoint to their adult selves who find themselves again unashamed, celebrating their bodies, able and wanting to be naked on stage night after night sharing their story, yet having come through so much life, thought and heartache to get them to that point.
It is a very open and honest show, where they talk candidly about their family’s reaction to the discovery that Amy was a porn actor, and Rosana examines her own mixed feelings and confusion when she found out. It is refreshing and interesting to hear someone talk about the positive side of the sex industry, how Amy felt sexually celebrated in her work and what she got out of being an escort. Whatever your views on the world of sex work, it is seldom that you get the chance to hear such an articulate defence and the perspective that it’s not the cause or the cure of many societal problems, but instead a way of dealing with them.
It is a privilege to watch the sisters’ show – they share themselves generously with their audience, make you feel close to them, warm towards them, and you get an insight into their love for each other which is a great pleasure. The only sadness I have is that there wasn’t more from Rosana. The show is largely focused on Amy’s sex work and both their reactions to the gender and feminist questions that arise from this. However I would have liked to hear more about Rosana’s experience as a feminist lesbian. I wanted to hear more about how she presents herself to the world, why she chooses to shave her head and her experience with her family. Whilst maybe not as salacious as the sex work, it is equally important and I feel the balance could have been slightly better.
Sister is a tender, funny and moving show. It is well performed and captivating. The sisters are generous to each other and with their audience, and I loved the ending where as they pack away the pole dancing equipment they ignore the audience and casually chat about what they like to do in sex, making you feel as though you are privy to (albeit a much more adult version) of one of their whispered bedtime conversations.