REVIEW – Naked in Alaska

*****

By Isabella Fraser

Writer and performer Valerie Hager has a fearless and honest solo show, based on the true-life story of her decade working as an exotic dancer. Directed by Scott Wesley Slavin, this piece explores the reasons why she ended up pole dancing and how she eventually found her way out to a different world.

The set is simple which works effectively. There is a pole for Hager to dance on (she demonstrates exceptional skill in pole dancing and a level of fitness that athletes would be proud of), a chair and a coat stand. Music matches the mood of the section, journeying with Hagar from her past to the present, with images supporting this in the background.

Hager portrays a wide range of characters. These are funny, fierce and physically impressive as each of the dozen or so characters is distinctly different and has their own story to tell. However, it can be difficult to follow sometimes when Hager demonstrates a conversation between two separate individuals. In addition, the fact that there are so many characters dilutes the strength of the section where Hager is portraying herself in that the moments of real revelation are all too briefly dealt with, including the root of Hagar’s spiral into addiction. It would have been interesting to hear more in-depth commentary about the issues surrounding her, as the many characters left little time for deeper analysis. Nevertheless, there is an explanation of why various girls – and Hagar in particular – end up as exotic dancers and those reasons tend to be heart-breaking. These reasons are sadly not uncommon – addiction, poverty and abuse for example.

Hager’s commitment and connection to the story is unflinching and her portrayal is touching – it is clear how invested she is in this piece. It was also a reminder that people end up in different situations often through circumstance; that they can survive this is a testament to their strength.

Naked in Alaska runs until 25 August (not 11 or 18) at Assembly Roxy Downstairs at 19.00. Running time is 1 hour.

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