Sydney actor and writer Tim Spencer debuted his latest show, Show Me Yours, I’ll Show You Mine in the intimate confines of Woolloomooloo’s Old Fitz theatre last December. Given the nature of the performance – a scripted conversation between Spencer and a male sex worker, played by actor Charles Purcell – he wasn’t quite sure what response to expect.

“The last night of the first season had a very vocal gentleman in the back row. If you haven’t been to the Old Fitz, the back row isn’t that far from the front row, so he became this surly budgerigar throughout the show,” Spencer told the Star Observer.

The situation was made all the more tense by the fact that the actual male sex worker Spencer had interviewed to develop the piece, known under the pseudonym ‘Not Nick’, was only a few seats away from the disapproving heckler.

“I really liked that invisible power dynamic going on there. This audience member was grumbling away but Not Nick was appraising him, almost sizing up the part of the community that has a problem with his work. There was just as much drama in the audience as there was onstage.”

The show now heads south for a season at Melbourne Fringe following an extensive retooling. Spencer went back and conducted further interviews with Not Nick, even asking him what he liked and disliked about the run at the Old Fitz.

“I also asked him to ask more questions of me, to see if we can shift the power dynamic a bit. The problem is that I can interrogate him, but it is less easy for him to put me on the spot, but I think we’ve achieved a much more nuanced show,” he said.

Not Nick doesn’t fit the stereotype many might have of sex workers, male or female; raised in rural NSW, he lives in Sydney and works in the financially lucrative industry to support his studies. The performance by its very nature challenges the audiences preconceptions of sex work, but Spencer said he was seeking to tell one specific story rather than make a statement about the industry as a whole. He was also keen to stress that the show is infused with a lot of humour.

“[Sex work] can be a very humorous profession. How could it not be? You’re constantly meeting new people in their most vulnerable state. Things happen when you’re naked that you can’t control. And there is an immense amount of skill involved in making sure that those unexpected events don’t throw things off the rails entirely.

“It’s well paid because it’s very hard to do it well.”

INFO: Show Me Yours, I’ll Show You Mine – North Melbourne Town Hall, Sep 28-30, Oct 2-7, 9-13. www.melbournefringe.com.au

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