Review: Stripped! at Vault Festival ★★★★★

Cash tips in the club, survival tips backstage – ‘Stripped!’ invites us into the Strip Club staffroom to get intimately acquainted with the realities of sex work. 

SEXQUISITE: STRIPPED! | Vault Festival | 17-25 February | £13

Camaraderie is the pulse of this performance, as “Stripper Code 101” beats through the walls of The Glory. Brought to us by the Sexquisite creative team, ‘Stripped!’ follows Maia’s first weeks at the club. Bright-eyed and clad in baby pink, her new job is confusing, made worse as the rules of the game keep changing.

Carefully crafted from real-life experiences, this is truly an ensemble piece. The script gives us a palpable understanding of the sisterhood that exists in sex work – which carries over into the cast’s considered handling of their character’s realities. Flawed, jealous, witty and protective to their core, we see a functioning, self-styled family rally for each other. Special mention is due to Carmen Ali, who delivers a motherly putdown with such a zing that it leaves one oblivious to the offence until 15 minutes later!

The direction is strong: we break from burgeoning character dynamics to comic musical numbers seamlessly. Moreover, the use of games that frames the performance is smart. Work exists as a gamified scheme, revealing the distinction between worker and boss succinctly, or to put it bluntly – those who need the rules of the game to survive and those who keep changing them for profit. It is with this simple device that ‘Stripped!’ manages to hurl its politic forward. Under capitalism there will always be a loser and it will forever be the worker when exploitation is the mechanism of power upon which bosses rely. Because of this, we must rally together.

In the week strippers overturned a Nil Cap decision in Edinburgh, a violent policy that puts safety and livelihoods at risk, ‘Stripped!’ is urgent viewing and a reminder that solidarity is our strongest weapon. So here’s my tip – it’s at the VAULT Festival from 17th February, and it is not to be missed!

Full cast list below:

Megan Prescott (Skins), Carmen Ali (TimeOut, BBC), Maedb Joy (Guildhall School of Music & Drama, The Barbican), and Bella Quinn (ICA, Tate St Ives).

About the reviewer

Lydia Wilcock is a writer, researcher and producer based in East London. Currently, Lydia’s research sits at the intersection of feminist performance, unruliness, intimacy and work. She co-runs bi-monthly performance night Runt of The Litter in Hackney Wick.