★★★★★ | Amateur Girls St. James Theatre and UK Tour

Julie is a 30 something auxiliary nurse living in a high rise flat in Nottingham with her cat, Lulu.

She’s always up for a laugh with nights down at the local clubs with a sneaky bottle of vodka in her handbag, a penchant for Take That and a swig of wine at home in the evenings. She spends her days working with elderly people, making sure their physical needs are met and her spare time, making porn to meet another kind of physical need altogether.

Amanda Whittington’s powerful yet hilarious play takes the form of an Alan Bennett style monologue that is 70 minutes long. Lucy Speed (best known as Natalie Evans in Eastenders) gives a magnificent performance and somehow the play carries the audience off to another world by the power of superb acting and clever use of sound. Julie’s accidental transition from ‘good-time girl’ to amateur porn star is credible and thought provoking as the piece examines the tension between choice and coercion in relation to women and sexuality. Watching Julie’s naïve progress and hearing her history unfold is a heart breaking experience yet Whittington manages to also make the story extremely watchable with masses of humour.

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Whittington researched her subject, basing the play on the experiences of genuine sex workers and is drawn chiefly from the true story of one auxiliary nurse who worked in the ‘amateur’ porn industry whilst holding down a job in a hospital. The play never feels preachy or predictable and although Julie’s experiences aren’t always good they’re also not always terrible and are at times, really good fun for her. There’s a clever line that wavers constantly over whether she’s a victim, a woman using her sexuality to empower herself financially or a hapless naïve. I certainly left the theatre thinking about the theme.

I was especially impressed with Speed’s Nottingham accent (I’m from those parts and as somewhat of an expert, can say that she did it really very well) and her performance is absolutely second to none. I laughed, winced, gasped and felt near to tears for Julie, thanks to the tremendous skills of Speed, a woman with fantastic talent.

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Fifth Word are definitely a theatre company to watch out for wit their previous Edinburgh Fringe smash hit success ‘Bones’, which was again an exceptional piece of theatre. I can’t recommend this play enough.

Catch the play at the St James Theatre, London until 21st February:
http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/events/amateur-girl

U.K. tour dates until 15th March 2014:
http://fifthword.co.uk/projects/spring-2014-tour-amateur-girl-by-amanda-whittington