The first stop of my long October tour was Newcastle for a day. This day was spent with the Mariner. The original Master Plan was a tour of Geordieland in the afternoon, but when I arrived it was raining and somehow we just ended up staying in my hotel room. We left in the early evening for a dinner and then to see “Oliver!” and not only because a visit to the theatre is always nice but because I needed something fresh after my overdose of The Phantom of the Opera.
Food, glorious food! Hot sausage and mustard!
is nowhere as sexy as
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination
but by then I was so tired of humming the Phantom’s tunes I was ready to hum anything. A food theme is an additional bonus: how can you not love food?
The show was everything I expected and even more considering Brian Conley as Fagin – what an utterly loveable mean old Jew! Moreover, I suddenly saw his “Reviewing the Situation” in a new light: if you listen to it closely, it can easily be a sex worker’s song. Fagin ponders over all those questions that sooner or later come to those who choose sex work as a career. Is it possible to do sex work “all your life” or is settling down with a spouse a better option? For reasons Fagin describes so eloquently, marriage isn’t a good idea (and even worse for a prostitute: why do I want to give away something that I’m used to be paid for?) Then there is the option of performing “an honest job” and again, the arguments against it are totally true – an honest job is a dismal flop next to prostitution. So what happens when you’re seventy? Like thieves, prostitutes have no-one to rely on: throughout the song, family is hard to keep, friends are hard to make, colleagues are hard to trust, society is indifferent when not hostile. If you listen carefully, Fagin finds no solution: he’d love to not have to be a thief anymore, but it’s his best option since he has to fend for himself. “I’m a bad ‘un and a bad ‘un I shall stay” is what he arrives to. It’s a rather sad song, taken as comic if you don’t concern yourself with the character’s troubles. Mind you, the character of Fagin in the musical is very different to the one in the book.
Yes, I loved the thief, but I deeply resented the prostitute – Nancy. Clearly not because of competition. This “tart with a heart” archetype is so insulting to common sense that it’s not even ironic. Writers and other “creative” people around the world, from bible to the most recent TV series, have been dehumanising, objectifying and pimping (i.e. getting a profit from using) prostitutes by creating this one rare whore who is occasionally capable of showing some humanity (as opposed to the mainstream whore who has never even heard the term). She is usually there to highlight the purity and morality of a “real” woman in the story and to make the reader go “aww, look at this hooker, she’s trying to be human! How sweet, poor silly thing!” So when at the start of the show the Mariner leaned to me and whispered: “Remember what happened to Nancy?” I said I didn’t. First of all, it’s a really creepy question to ask someone in Nancy’s occupation, and secondly, you don’t need to remember. Nancy’s a hooker. Hookers get murdered, especially the ones with a heart. This most likely comes from the contradiction between her job and her human nature: tart with a heart’s existence upsets the balance of society by showing that prostitutes are actually women (yes, I know sex workers can be male and transgender, but the society prefers to stay unaware). The society can’t possibly be forced to choose between
- prostitutes are human like other women and are therefore equal members of society and deserve rights like others, and
- all women aren’t human.
And so, the hooker has to die.
Yes, prostitution can be rather isolating. Which is where me and the Mariner found each other, because being a sailor is also very isolating, although for different reasons. Society never considers prostitutes’ feelings, but it doesn’t bother much with seamen’s either. It hadn’t occurred to me until I met the Mariner. As a seafarer, you spend most of your life on a ship in the tight company of people (mostly men with an occasional woman here and there nowadays) who often don’t even speak your language. So you either make friends with them or with Facebook profiles – if you’re in luck and your ship provides you with Internet connection. If you have friends or family “ashore”, being with them comes down to looking at their photo when calling them. So even though for different reasons, it’s the same social isolation as with sex workers, with the same outcome: family is hard to keep, friends are hard to make. To top it all, you live at work (kinda like living in a brothel. Shudder) so while you’re on the ship, you work. As in, no 9 to 5, no week-ends, no bank holidays, no going to the local with your mates. You actually work most of the time you’re at work. I’d kill myself.