A totally ripper Aussie stripper - At the top of Makin’ It Rain, Aussie comedian and stripper Nicole Henriksen assures the audience that the show will contain funny bits – “you’re allowed to laugh” – as well as moments of poignancy, which we should feel free to let just sit.
Star rating: *****
Venue: Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61)
What she doesn’t say is that we’re also allowed to clap, which means that the first few “strip breaks” she performs are greeted with a polite if slightly awkward silence. We’re nice, liberal Fringe theatre-goers – we’re not meant to behave like we’re actively enjoying this, are we?
Henriksen clearly is. Over a perfectly pitched hour-and-a-bit, she describes how she got started in stripping and the effects it’s had on her life. How the news was greeted by her friends, her family. How it’s impacted upon her relationships, her sex life, her mental health. How it fits into her wider beliefs as a feminist.
Because make no mistake, this is a feminist show. Henriksen is firm in denouncing the divisions that sexist society forces women into, and rejects the hierarchy that places sex workers apart from or beneath other women (not to mention the unspoken hierarchy that exists within the sex industry).
Do you believe sex work is inherently degrading to women? Henriksen will convince you otherwise, or at least make you question your assumptions.
Her words only tell half the story though – Henriksen also knows how to use her body. That’s not just a horny appraisal of the stripping interludes (which are amazing, by the way – you should clap). She’s a hilarious physical comedian, throwing her frame into weird and wonderful shapes to illustrate the conversational awkwardness of those who’d question her lifestyle. She builds imaginary but robust structures around her, designating physical spaces on the stage for demonstrating the aforementioned sex worker hierarchy, or the damage of rape culture, or even just to break character and have a laugh.
And her nudity (yes, there is nudity) is a feminist statement in itself: this is my body, and not only will I not be ashamed of it – I will enjoy it.
If you let yourself, you will too.