Review: Temporarily Yours (Underbelly Bristo Square)
Updated: Aug 8, 2023
The stock characters and the standouts in Greta Zamparini’s solo performance
Sex work is a topic that, in theatre, feels like a plaything that audiences got tired of as it grew less taboo, and yet it has never stopped being relevant and stigmatised. Attempting to bring the stories of real sex workers to the stage is Greta Zamparini. Temporarily Yours has a particular focus on the question of whether this is an industry that women enter by choice or that they are forced into, covering a variety of circumstances and characters, some of which are inspired by the stories of real sex workers.
Despite the input from real women, the characterisations are surprisingly two-dimensional. Of course, as with any true-life work, the reality of the depictions is to be taken with a grain of salt. But sadly most of Zamparini’s characters come across as stock stereotypes of different types of sex workers – the streetwalker, the high-class prostitute, the stripper, none have much individuality and most seem to be built on preconceptions that audiences are already familiar with. Even so, some can surprise and entertain with some of their stories: one of a client who could only reach climax if he was put on a two-minute time limit, another of a woman who scared her neighbour into returning her stolen folding chairs.
But among these types of sex workers, there is a pretty obvious absence – the online sex worker. The landscape of sex work has been changed so much by the internet – revenge porn, cam girls, only fans, doxxing – that to make a show about sex work without taking that into account makes it feel stale. Moreover, it does little to overcome that cognitive dissonance we have with sex work, instead these characters are still depicted as being far removed from the comfortable lives of the audience members. What is missing is touches like in Cameryn Moore’s 2017 performance Phone Whore, where wild stories about phone sex clients are set against more relatable anecdotes on the convenience of working from home.
Photo Credit: Brando Cimarosti
Zamparini herself has good comedic delivery and confidence, but most of her performance is as flat as her characters. That is, until the final monologue. There she tells the story of a young girl sold to human traffickers, one that starts with real hope and ends with heart-wrenching darkness. Her performance is tender but not over-wrought, and a total contrast to the self-assured high-charging escort we meet at the start of the performance, convinced that everyone in the industry has a comfortable life like hers. It is a monologue so strong it could be said that the performance is worth watching just for the final scene, but even so it is inescapably uneven. Despite its strong finish, Temporarily Yours demonstrates that a performance can still feel outdated even when it is about the oldest profession in the world. Three stars.
Whispers from the crowd: "A visceral telling of stories for a group which has no voice. Sucks you in from the first minutes, and continues to cut very close to the bone."
Temporarily Yours will play at Underbelly Bristo Square until August 27th