Review: Home Sweet Hell (Calm Down, Dear Festival)

Currently in development/work in progress, Maedb Joy’s show Home Sweet Hell stopped off at Camden People’s Theatre last night to a packed and enthusiastic house.

As the founder and co-artistic director of Sexquisite Events, Joy is clearly committed to finding creative opportunities for those with lived experience in sex work.

One such story brings us to this show, and one woman’s journey from pigtailed teenager making money off camming and selling her body. There are moments of both validation and exploitation, exclusion and abortion, intimidation and fascination.

As she progresses through relationship difficulties (the whore and the housewife paradox), and finds the tips from being a cam girl open up the possibility of independence, we follow the good and the bad through carefully crafted poems.

In a very confident and open performance, Joy celebrates the body and the will to make money while addressing the stigma and power abuses inherent in sex work. In her 14 reasons to keep camming, both sides are fairly juggled, without judgement.

There are moments which give pause: a client tricking personal details out of the performer for twisted gain; a boyfriend who deaires his sexy girlfriend while referring to her as a “whore”; an older man who preys on the underage.

Production photo for Home Sweet Hell

Home Sweet Hell, though, explores the whys and wherefores of how some women explore their sexual identity through camming, and how many are pulled in young with the carrot of money and desirability.

As a work in progress, some bits of the show feel underdeveloped – an early bit about losing a baby is interesting, but quickly passed over, while the friend/regular on the other side of the camera who doesn’t mind that (at 26) the performer has aged, is only mentioned once.

With strong lighting cues and a well-defined message, Home Sweet Hell is a powerful show in which you grow to like and root for the cam girl, wishing her well and getting some insight into her choices.

Training as an actor and then having to act (or lie) in every area of your life because of your career choice is tough – but if you are making more money in a day than a week’s bartending (a nod to pub theatre bar staff was also intriguing) do the pros outweigh the cons?

Home Sweet Hell leaves a lot to think about. Joy’s earnest performance of “pussy, power and politics” has a lot of potential and this show is one which does not shy from provoking difficult conversations.

Home Sweet Hell played on 6 Jun as part of the Calm Down, Dear Festival. For more on Maedb Joy’s work, visit her website.