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"Once a Whore..."



"Once a whore, always a whore" - that old, sexist and degrading idiom that has now been better appropriated by wronged women(and men) with the substitution of "cheat" for "whore". But neither are necessarily true, of course. People can and do change. That was as true for 18th Century sex workers as it is now, although admittedly it's a lot easier now to get out of the sex trade than it perhaps was, then.


The Georgian era, and indeed the working class underworld of whores, thieves and criminals has always fascinated me. I've always been an avid collector of books on the subject, art and films. So when I was told in a past life reading that I had once been a harlot who had been cast out of a brothel in London and subsequently died of destitution on the streets, I felt a shiver run down my spine. It all started to make sense!

Unfortunately I couldn't get any more information about my life as a harlot. I don't know my name, or if it was even the Georgian era. But this revelation - whether true or not- provided the impetus to spur me onto developing my latest tour Harlots & Strumpets & Tarts, Oh My!


Admittedly, this was made somewhat easier by the fact that this is a period of history that has become very trendy in recent years, what with the hit BBC show 'Harlots' (inspired by Hallie Rubenhold’s excellent book) and the ever increasing popularity of satirical depictions of Georgian low life. The Tate constantly seems to have Hogarth shows on. Sex and corsets - they never go out of fashion do they?


As a result, the number of books, TV shows, films and exhibitions exploring this era are legion now. I think Millennials like myself can relate to the rude, lewd Georgians since there's something about their gin-sodden excesses that reminds us of the '90's and 'noughties' nightlife revelry. If Hogarth had visited a nightclub in my hometown in 2000, he would have been met with scenes not unlike what he was used to sketching in the 1700's (although the mini skirts and crop tops might've shocked him a bit!)



So, over the past few months I've been hoovering up as much information as I can about Georgian society and culture; the sex trade of London in the 1700's and the characters that became the 'stars' of it; and putting together a theatrical experience that aims to faithfully and respectfully dramatise this moment in history. The overriding theme colouring all my research so far is misogyny, sexism and abuse. The trade was of course created by, and for men. It was written about by men. The art created from it was painted, composed and etched by men. Fortunately things are now changing but I feel that the women whose bodies and minds existed to serve this trade and culture deserve to finally have their stories and voices heard, - in all their ugly, heart-rending detail.


That is the main goal of this tour. Yes, it will be entertaining and funny, with elaborate costumes and bawdy jokes. But it wasn't all about busty women in corsets, drunken shenanigans and sex. Most of it was about hunger, disease, paedophilia and death before the age of 40. The oldest profession in the world is still going strong and so is trafficking, sex abuse and misogyny. I want this tour to make people think, how much have things really changed?


Harlots & Strumpets & Tarts, Oh My! is our new immersive theatrical exploration of the Georgian sex trade in London's West End, coming in June 2022. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for all the latest updates on the tour. Tickets will be on sale soon!


(Images above copyright of Joel Goodman/LNP and Maciej Dacowicz/Barcroft Media)



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