Cameron Woodhead | The Sydney Morning Herald

Notorious Strumpet and Dangerous Girl
Jess Love
Meat Market, North Melbourne
Until October 2

Marianne Faithfull once described her career as “a triumph of style over substance abuse”. Notorious Strumpet and Dangerous Girl brings the wisecrack irresistibly to mind.

Jess Love performs <i>Notorious Strumpet and Dangerous Girl</i> at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Jess Love performs Notorious Strumpet and Dangerous Girl at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Photo: Supplied

Framed as an AA meeting, Jess Love’s autobiographical one-woman show fuses circus and theatre with boldness, charm and dark hilarity. It swings into her battle with the bottle quite literally: this must be the only 12-step program in town to feature live trapeze.

From growing up queer in a staunchly Christian family in Queensland to the shiftless glamour and instability of carnie life, the artist skimps neither on the seductions of a chemical vacation, nor the anguish and chaos caused when the “fun” drops out of “too much fun”.

The uncanniness of circus arts makes them weirdly suited to exploring the grotesque extremities of addiction, and Love’s tricks are characterful and emotively charged: letting her stage-face drop in a grudging hoop routine, say, or capturing the piteousness of being blotto through aerial acrobatics, with an inevitable fall.

A digression on the subject of genetic susceptibility to addiction leads Love to unearth a convict ancestor, a prostitute transported to Tasmania for theft, who seems to have had her own trouble with alcohol. It’s one of many winning surprises in this savagely funny, fearless and genuinely uplifting show.

(Note: This show contains nudity.)