Dublin Fringe Festival 2022: Fluff
Lianne O'Hara and Shir Madness in Fluff. Image Lianne O'Hara
A common complaint for international visitors is how the Irish use English. It's not uncommon to hear; "that means something totally different where I come from." The same might be said for Lianne O'Hara's well intentioned Fluff. A docu-drama about life as a lap dancer, it doesn't appear to say quite what it thinks its saying. Proclaiming to give voice to strippers as women deserving love, respect, and money, it portrays them as self-obsessed hustlers exploiting any pervert foolish enough to walk into their club. Manipulative victims making victims of their conned clients. Mainly sad-sack males, leaving you wondering what's to be respected about either dancer or client? It's unclear who is exploiting who. Indeed, if Fluff is advocating in support of sex workers, it needs to think again. It's the strongest advertisement against them.
Claims it will challenge your beliefs about sex work might be true if you've been living in a convent in outer Antartica minus a television. Aspiring to speak for the proverbial, hardworking stripper with the heart of gold, what actually emerges are heartless gold diggers digging into every fools pockets, and doing so with the subtlety of a brick. Under Liam Halligan's direction, any sense of fantasy or eroticism is stripped away ensuring only sleaze remains. Indeed, if you ever thought you might want to visit a strip club, Fluff will cure you of it. For behind the wizard's curtain isn't sexy. It's about playing your client and grabbing as much money as you can. Holding the power sexually and otherwise. Including the power to destroy your client's life if they cross a line, or if you just feel you want to.
Pressing issues like health care for sex workers, psychological and physical safety, and social stigma are all skimmed over rather than addressed. Which, when compared to shows like Lady Grew's Hookers Do It Standing Up, leaves Fluff looking thematically and theatrically lightweight. What endears it is what, under different circumstances, would normally sink it; two brave performances by O'Hara and Shir Madness that lean into looking non-professional. Reinforcing a sense of real people telling real, if rather dull tales. Halligan ensuring delivery is coated in the lifeless boredom gathered from sitting around faking everything from your name to pretending you care. Pole dancing routines executed with about as much energy as a yawn. Aaron Lockhart, as a multitude of males, serving up the usual tropes of hard ass, sinister creep, or wimp, when he's not wiping the space clean with worrying degrees of intensity.
A self-confessed thesis project, Fluff never quite escapes its academic constraints. Its language and demands for documentation detracting from the naturalism it seems to aspire to, seen in its touching attempts to convey a competitive friendship. Feeling like a moral tale without morals, Fluff makes a few points, but it doesn't make its case. Portraying lap dancing as sleazy work demeaning to women undertaken for men with all the power of a bullet point. Sex workers might feel more needed to be said.
Fluff by Lianne O'Hara, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2022 at Smock Alley Theatre until September 24.
Fo more information visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2022.