A Sudbury artist's award-winning ‘Tantric Masseur’ comedy solo show promises to raise a laugh and an eyebrow as it takes on the pandemic with an outdoor run.

Roann McCloskey's My Father The Tantric Masseur - which in real life he is - is being performed at the Arcola Theatre from June 27 to 30.

The play, written and performed by British-Algerian Roann, starts with her four-year-old self and tells us stories right up to the present day…where she receives a Whatsapp from her father turned tantric masseur, stating: ‘We store a lot of emotional trauma in our genitals.’
Hackney Gazette: Roann McCloskey performing her award-winning My Father The Tantric MasseurRoann McCloskey performing her award-winning My Father The Tantric Masseur (Image: Roann McCloskey)

"My father is a very reserved English man and he came back from Thailand and.. so it was a huge surprise for me and my sister, even cool. I think it's awesome for people to be able to transform at any age," said Roann.

The admission became the basis for her comic show on sex, sexuality and power which won a Vaults Origins Award for Outstanding New Work at the Vault Festival in 2019.

It went on to play sell-out shows at Bath Fringe Festival, the Assembly George Square Theatre at Edinburgh Festival Fringe and sold out at London’s Soho Theatre, "a lifelong dream to perform there," she added.

"I'm really excited," she said on performing at the Arcola Theatre. "I was terrified the first time because it's autobiographical. It's stories about sex and sex trauma that people don't have conversations about. It was cool and was really well received."
Roann peppers her tale with stories of her straight-laced sister and the star of the show, her Algerian Muslim mother who insists on open dialogue about sex, whether Roann likes it or not.

"My family all reacted in different ways, just very funny things they've said to me. They are very supportive and are my family unit; my mum, my dad, my sister and I couldn't be more supportive about the show considering they all get themselves quoted and put into it."

The 32-year-old former Sudbury Primary School and Claremont High School pupil chose to write about sex because "it's universal".

"Sex is universal, a lot of the time it's why we're here. It's so universal we know everyone has it but we don't talk about it. When you have conversations about sex I find it fascinating how everyone comes at it with completely different lenses, completely different understandings of it, completely different ideas and relationships with it, I can do my next four shows still talking about sex there's so much there.

"I certainly had a lot to say about it in terms of my relationship with it."

Nor does she shy away, even from darker aspects of her experience. "Because I tell jokes all the time, the stories I do tell that aren't funny, the difficulty in that was ensuring where the humour comes from.

"It's important to give stories that deserve it their weight and to not be like 'well it's all ok' when it's not ok.

"The piece where it was most complex and where most time was spent was in how do you make sure you honour this story and don't undercut its weight and not undercutting it and just make sure that it's safe when they listen.

"We write it but it comes in places where we know we'll be able to hold you into a lighter period that comes next."

In 2019 she received funding from Metroland Cultures, to write a play for the Brent 2020 Borough of Culture.

Next up is Who Murdered My Cat? which will debut at Coventry’s outdoor Piccolo Tent theatre in the Assembly Festival Garden on 24th and 25th September 2021 after being delayed due to the pandemic.

My Father The Tantric Masseur is at the Arcola Theatre, in Ashwin Street, Dalston on Sunday, June 27 at 6pm, Monday, June 28 at 6.30pm Wednesday, June 30 at 6.30pm and 8.30pm.

Tickets start at £12 and are on sale now at: www.arcolatheatre.com/whats-on/my-father-the-tantric-masseur/