Aromas is a candid look at professional sex work, on stage at Toronto’s Red Sandcastle Theatre
Confession — sex work fascinates me. Having befriended strong and proud individuals from professional dominatrixes to professional girlfriends (or ‘companions’ as many prefer to be called), I feel I have a pretty strong understanding of what the industry entails. So when the opportunity to see Aromas, playing at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, arose, I was instantly intrigued.
The performance is a one-woman show — a first-person account of a skating ballerina turned professional escort and the wondrous encounters with fascinating and colourful individuals from her rich and vibrant past. What the audience is left with is an empowering and revealing story that speaks on many levels, with nuggets of intriguing wisdom like how “the Kama Sutra is a book of prayers”.
The performance is engaging and fun to watch where Andy Fraser as Chanel/Katalin does a fine job at slowly and gradually luring the audience into her character’s life. The only true caveat to this show is despite how entertaining the performance is, it feels more like a second draft rather than a final product.
Fraser’s acting is compelling though her first 20 minutes is a slow build where her connection to her own words seems lackluster, barely rising or falling from an emotional baseline. It leaves the audience to wonder what she makes of her own experiences — has her past left her jaded or does she really not care? As the story progresses, this question goes unanswered.
Initial slow build aside, eventually the story becomes captivating as she describes life travelling the world being part of a Swan-Lake-on-Ice cast before a fan sweeps her away to a foreign land with a large pay incentive and she gets her first scintillating taste of high end escorting. Her recollections of Charles the disabled client and his mother who aids him through his appointments with her and the intriguing lives of the other escorts from her past are enough to make you want to learn more. But, just as the telling becomes interesting, she shifts ideas and starts a new tale.
This became a significant point of conversation as Vance, my date for the night, and I walked home — how genuinely intriguing these stories were and how disjointed it felt when Fraser would jump between narratives in the middle. We both felt that a final edit of the script with fresh eyes would have done this production wonders.
We also felt underwhelmed with the production’s choice of midi-style music used as the soundtrack — a simple piano track would have been more effective.
And as mentioned, Fraser does do a fine job in her performance, despite a few hiccups in her delivery, but the slow build takes a while to get the audience invested and by the time we are, the rest of the performance that does leave you wanting more, feels short.
I would love for Aromas to receive a decent final edit and rehearsal before a second run, in which case I’d be first in line to see it again. There’s plenty of potential in this story to be better than it already is and I’d love to see that potential realized. As it stands it’s still a pretty decent run and worth experiencing.
- Aromas is playing at The Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street E) until October 4, 2014
- Performances run September 20, 24-27 and October 1-4 at 8 pm with 2 pm matinee shows on September 21 and 28.
- Tickets are $22.97 each and can be purchased online at secureaseat.com, seating is limited.
Photo provided by the company