Charlotte Rose is performing in the UK tour of the Sex Worker’s Opera, which mixes genres including opera, hip hop and poetry to tell women’s stories and comprises 50% sex workers. Rose tells Giverny Masso why she feels the show humanises people like herself who work in the sex industries…
Why did you want to take part in the Sex Worker’s Opera?
I am a sex worker and I used to sing in a band and I wanted to do a combination of those things. When I heard about the Sex Worker’s Opera I thought ‘what an incredible thing’.
What is the show about?
We tell stories. We come from many different countries. Everybody sees sex workers as two-dimensional – either tragic or glamorous. In Hollywood, the sex workers are always the ones getting saved, or they die, or convert to religion. Nobody has the right to portray one view of sex workers. People never hear the voices themselves. When you hear about a sex worker on the news, for instance, you hear it from the news presenter. We try to humanise it. Everybody needs to be safe at work. The Sex Worker’s Opera gives people the opportunity to listen to real voices. It’s a collective and there are some beautiful voices in it.
What issues are you hoping to raise awareness of?
I want [sex work] to be decriminalised. Certain elements of [the laws against] prostitution are causing more danger. If I went to a different neighbourhood with a friend, then that would be considered a brothel. This is where the law is causing issues. We’re not here to change people’s minds about what we do, we want to make people think about how we can make it safer for sex workers. The experience will take you on a real rollercoaster.
Have you ever performed in theatre before?
When I was very young. The reason I can perform my scenes is because the stories resonate. There are so many different elements – for instance, one woman almost had her child taken away. I tell a couple of my own stories – there’s one scene about a porn protest I went to in December 2014 after the government changed the law so certain sex acts can’t be included in pornography. I was protesting because I believed the restriction to be a threat to freedom of expression.
What has it been like being a part of the Sex Worker’s Opera?
It is one of the most life-changing experiences. Being a sex worker can be isolating, so wherever we go, we do workshops to give sex workers the opportunity to build buddy systems and safety nets. I would love for us to take it to the West End one day.
First professional role: Sex Worker’s Opera (2013)
Sex Worker’s Opera is at Ovalhouse, London, until December 2