Sex Workers Opera opens in Hackney

The cast of The Sex Workers' Opera

The cast of The Sex Workers' Opera - Credit: Archant

Web cam workers, street corner prostitutes, high class escorts and porn stars have all contributed ideas to write an opera which some of them will perform in, to de-stigmatise the work they do.

The Sex Workers’ Opera, which will be staged at The Courtyard Theatre next week, has been devised through a series of community workshops backed by the Royal Opera House.

At least half of the opera’s performers work in the sex industry, but to ensure anonymity for all those who do not want to be “outed” in the media, the whole cast has promised not to give away whether they do work in the sex industry or not.

Those who don’t wish to be identified will use disguises such as masks.

Co-director Siobhan Knox said there had been many depictions of sex workers in art and the media, but they rarely came from the perspective of the workers themselves.

“It’s not the first time an opera has been about a sex worker, but they tend to be one-sided, moralising tales, usually with the sex worker dying in the end,” she said.

“In the media we only hear about the happy hookers, the glam sex workers who are very happy with their job or the poor trafficked worker who’s been forced into doing the job.

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“What we are interested in exposing to the general public are all the shades in between and those for whom it is just a job which can provide a flexible income.”


Along with co-director Alex Etchart, Ms Knox put a global call-out for stories, and has included tales from Argentina, Chile, Taiwan and the US along with those sent in from the UK.

Mr Etchart said: “We can’t say there’s one fundamental experience of sex work, but there’s a common theme that it’s misrepresented in the media, and how they want to change that presentation, and not have to hide it from family and friends.

“People are starting to see beyond the black and white, and hopefully sex work might be recognised as an actual valid form of work.

“The monetisation of our sexuality is allowed in mainstream media through music videos, but suddenly the moment there’s a client and worker it suddenly becomes taboo.”

n The show will be staged at the theatre in Pitfield Street at 8pm tonight and tomorrow. Tickets cost £15 or £10 for concessions. For more information go to