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“The reality of stripping, without judgement.” Amelia Pitcher shares her debut play POLES: The science of magnetic attraction.

“The reality of stripping, without judgement.” Amelia Pitcher shares her debut play POLES: The science of magnetic attraction.

. 4 min read

Humour can be a great way to uncover the truths we all need to talk about.

Months ago, between COVID lockdowns, I was lucky enough to attend Bella Green’s standup show, Bella Green is Charging for it, at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. As I giggled, gasped and winced my way through her fantastic stories, I began to understand the way that self-deprecating Aussie humour can make the quirky or foreign seem incredibly relatable.

Now, I’m looking forward to enjoying another production from someone who knows our industry. It’s called POLES: The Science of Magnetic Attraction, and it’s written and performed by actor and former stripper Amelia Pitcher. The play focuses on Cora, a 20-something finding her way through life. Cora’s work is an important part of the narrative, and it’s inspired by Amelia’s own experience dancing in Brisbane.

I spoke with Amelia over the weekend to hear her thoughts on the play, and find out what inspired her to adapt her experiences for the stage.

Amelia is an Acting graduate from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, in London. She’s previously worked with Queensland Theatre and made an appearance in the mini-series ‘All My Friends Are Racist’ on the ABC. When we speak on the phone she’s bubbly and enthusiastic, thrilled to be launching the production in less than a week. “I'm just kind of flipping between extreme nervousness and then excitement,” she says.

Her work as a dancer began in Brisbane, before she studied drama. "I've been out of [stripping] for a couple of years now,” she says. “I stripped back in Brisbane before I went to drama school, I started in 2017 and I got accepted into one in the UK. And then like I brought my heels over to the UK and I looked into doing it there, but drama school was fifty contact hours a week. Impossible to sustain. I could have done a night a week somewhere, but obviously clubs aren't really happy with that - they want you to do at least two or three. So it wasn't as it wasn't sustainable.”

She already had interest in writing about her work, but took up the project with renewed energy during the pandemic, in what she calls a ‘two-week fever dream.’ She then partnered with director Maeve Hook to bring her writing debut to life.

Although she’s previously written and directed a number of short films, POLES is her first stage play. She hopes the play might help elevate the conversation about sex work.

“I feel like a lot of the stories out there in the media kind of focus on the trauma of it. Like, 'here is a really sad story about all this', but the reality of it is that it can be so funny and beautiful. And like there's so many lovely moments.”

POLES was born out of a frustration at the wider world for its attitude towards stripping and sex work. She’s tired of the sex work tropes and cliches that suggest our industry is inherently damaging or tragic. “It just means that the same stuff is being made over and over again, and it gets boring."

She still feels a lot of pressure to defend herself from the judgement of others. "I feel like I should be justifying myself to people or justifying where I'm I wanted to explore that a lot, especially in the dating scene and family and stuff like that, as well as the receptions that you can receive."

She also points out that in many ways, the play isn’t just about dancing. It’s also a story about a young person trying to find their way - a theme we can all relate to. "It's also exploring what it's like to be a young person who's not sure where you're going with your life. I think being in the creative industries and with COVID, so many of my friends and so many people in general have a really good understanding of that feeling.” She hopes that seeing this validated onstage will be a good experience for those who have had a similar experience.

Amelia says that these first few nights in Melbourne will give her an idea of whether the production is working the way she’s hoped. "I was wanting to treat this as a bit of a test run to see how it goes. See how people react and whether they find it funny." If all goes according to plan, she’ll also run the show as part of Adelaide Fringe Festival next year.

There’s certainly something special about humour and its ability to humanise. "It hits you more because you're already there. You're already in it and you're laughing. I love it as a medium for exploring a lot of things," she says. I think this might be why the comedic approach is often so effective, when it comes to exploring sex work. Humour is accessible - it makes it easier for people to start conversations that they might otherwise have found awkward.

There are plans to take this material into new mediums - in particular, creating a web series. “The more that I interrogate it and look at it, little scenes pop into my head and I just think, 'This would work so well as a-straight-to-camera." That's the goal. I'd like to get that happening after Fringe or next year, depending on how the reception goes and potentially get some creative development happening as well."

No matter where this performance leads her, it seems she’s found an effective way to get people involved and give us a take on the industry that’s upbeat as well as honest. She says, “Life is funny, and if you’re not true to that, you're not telling the whole story."

POLES: The Science of Magnetic Attraction runs from the 9th-11th October at the Butterfly Club, Melbourne.

Georgie Wolf

Georgie is a Melbourne escort, writer, and educator from Melbourne, Australia. Her work has been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian Australia, and by Archer Magazine.