The Sonder Line’s first production is an sensually impressive feat, a tale of the inner workings (mentally and physically) of the strip club – but what’s left to tell?
Set in Fortitude Valley’s Candy Club, The Touch Industry focuses, rather than on the industry or specific personnel, on emotion – reflected by the personas of dancers and patrons, a conglomerate of mental and societal ills. The mood is dark – distrust, apathy and greed are often explored, positive emotions a rare find. Actor/Dancers moving within and interacting with the crowd, scenes of mental degradation, all allowing the audience to react as they will – for better or worse.
The scattered scenes of satirical comedy excel, and any combination of music and dance shines brilliantly as you’d expect, but pauses for exposition play as exactly that – exposition – failing to instil humanity and lacking pathos. The personas on show are never fully realised in their own right, characterisation generally swinging between either harsh or fragile, lacking a full range of emotion – it’s made difficult to relate. The venue presents its own problems – with the bar remaining open to regulars and staff, the noises of work, chatter and occasional nervous laughter (especially at some of the more melodramatic scenes) serve to distract rather than immerse.
It’s a slow burn, and sometimes a disjointed affair (at risk of resembling Strip Club Variety Hour rather than exposé), but more than worth it for the expertly crafted and empathetic final scenes. There’s a dichotomy presented when within the space of a few minutes we’re shown a dancer’s emotional low point, then told that anything goes as long as you “f*cking pay me” – the delivery callous, harsh, brutal in its honesty – immediately followed by a post-show denouement where you’re invited to buy a drink, buy a dance, asking you to immediately forget what you’ve just witnessed.
While it may not deliver fully on promises to demystify or challenge (your mileage may vary), it’s a feast for the senses. Regardless of your emotional investment, attention is held throughout – you can’t help but watch as it bares all.
Reviewed by Jason Lomas
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 14.