3 stars ***
Underbelly George Square (Venue 300)

AT THE George Square box office, they hand you an envelope containing a message; it tells you where to go – just around the corner – and asks you, when you get there, to call a mobile number. The voice that answers directs you to a door in an alleyway; then upstairs, you find yourself in a bedroom with one other audience member, and a girl called – well, she has so many names, you can almost take your pick.

Menage, you see, is one of several shows on this year’s Fringe that tries to challenge common assumptions about prostitution, and to make the case for legalising a business that always becomes more dangerous, the more heavily the law bears down on it. So for 35 minutes, this particular working woman – on the day I saw the show, a lovely blonde played by Josie Beth Davies – offers us a cosy chat with tea and biscuits, based on verbatim interviews with prostitutes collected by the show’s writer and director, Ryan Good. The visit is brief, and the show’s claim to have any close connection with the recent controversial Police Scotland crack-down on Edinburgh’s “sauna” network is paper-thin, represented by a very brief recorded interview played into the middle of the action.

Davies’ performance is memorable, though, full of a straightforward determination to do a job she enjoys and is well paid for in order to provide for her child. Television drama loves the sadistic image of a prostitute as a battered, broken, trafficked woman waiting to be “rescued”; this brief but thoughtful show reminds us that the truth is often more complex, and much more difficult to keep at a comfortable distance from “ordinary “ life.

Joyce McMillan 
Until 30
Late entry – not in Fringe programme.


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