VULNERABLE: Amy Wilde, plays murdered prostitute Working Girl in GNaW Theatre’s premiere performance Ugly Mugs. Picture: Glen Waterhouse.Since 2000, actorand writer Peta Brady worked with an organisation that helps Melbourne sex workers who are victims of violent clients, and became increasingly concerned that police and other government agenciesdolittle to protect them.
With official statistics showing in 2012 that there had been 27 attacks in the previous 12 months on sex workers in St Kilda, and that 25 of the attacks had occurred on streets, she decided to write a play looking at the need for a more responsive attitude.
And before the play, Ugly Mugs, premiered in 2014 with a production that played in Melbourne and Sydney, she was horrified when one of her sex worker clients was murdered in her home. The killer has still not been found.
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Staging rights for Ugly Mugs were made available late last year, and Newcastle company GNaW Theatre was the first to win Peta Brady’s approval. The play will be staged at the Civic Playhouse from April 26 to 28.
The show is GNaW’s premiere production. The company was established last year by actor-directors Amy Wilde and Pearl Nunn to stage contemporary works that look engagingly at issues that face individuals and communities.
The title, Ugly Mugs, refers to the term used by sex workers for aggressive clients. It is also the name of a pamphlet issued by teams that manage sex workers,givingdetails of clients who have badly treated other workers.
The story begins with a coronial doctor, known as Doc (played by Steve Wilson), arriving to examine the body of a dead woman, Working Girl (Amy Wilde). As the check gets underway, the woman’s spirit rises from the corpse and starts to chat, with blunt candour and off-beat humour, about herself.
The action switches to the edge of a football park, where a teenage boy, Son (Oliver MacFadyen), is attracted to Footy Girl (Taylor Reece), who is playing in a women’s team. They meet when she comes off the field and begin engaging in a dangerous game of cat and mouse.
The two stories become interlinked, with Mum (Katy Carruthers), the boy’s mother, fiercely determined to help him when he gets into trouble. And Mug (Graham Wilson), the man who attacked Working Girl, likewise appears.
Ugly Mugs runs for a fast,unbroken 70 minutes, and the action includesa lot of dark humour and memory flashbacks. Pearl Nunn notes that the play shows how boys’ behaviours come from watching and listening to the words and actions of older men. “The behaviour is not inherent,” she said.
Ugly Mugs has 8pm shows nightly from Thursday, April 26to Saturday, April 28, plus a 2pm Saturday matinee. Tickets: $25 to $30. Bookings: 4929 1977.