Rough Trade

Kate Young
9th Sep 2022

This is not a play about sex! Pollock addresses her audience. You can’t blame a Girl for having misconceptions given the title of the play (Rough Trade was the name given to rough or lower-class men sought, and sometimes paid, as casual sexual partners by more privileged or affluent men), There’s even a mention of dancing dildo’s in the media blurb, and yes there are tales of hermaphrodite slugs (that can literally go fuck themselves. (Pollock’s words not mine) and a few mentions of sex toys here and there but when we get to the heart of it, Rough Trade is about the act of intimacy and the simple need for human connection.

When we first enter the mind of Pollock we catch her mid composition to the Facebook group Rough Trade Sydney. A group where members post their unwanted items or “jobs” they need done in exchange for other item or jobs. The group has two main rules, no legal currency may be used (sending a huge middle finger to the patriarchy) and DON’T BE A DICKHEAD!

There are many reasons people join and become increasingly engaged in online communities. For a first timer it might be purely transactional, having not yet gained a sense of belonging. For some others it might be for pure entertainment but for a majority of members, it’s the chance to make a human connection. It’s about interaction, validation and a way to be seen.

For Pollack that’s all she really wants, as a woman of a 'certain age’ she’s fighting against the experience of becoming invisible and irrelevant in a society that no longer values her. She continuously re-assesses herself and her value in the world, “sometimes it feels pretty close to not be anything” she says. For Pollock her displacement is both personal and global. A marriage breakup, finding herself needing to be economically self reliant, add to injury living through a covid pandemic and this woman is one small incident away from a concrete bed.

Pollock talks to us in a conversational manner, sharing her experiences trading and watching trades on the Facebook site. The scope is wide and varied, often kooky, sometimes kinky and mostly hilarious. As these odd swaps get read out, Pollock in turn trades her own stories of love, loss, violence, loneliness and dreams for a brighter future.

The underlying message however in this conversation is the value we put on objects and I’m not talking about dollar amounts, I’m talking about the sentimental value. For as I see it an object is like a vessel for memories and therefore its value can only be determined by what it means to its owner.

There was very little in the way of theatrical effects – four spotlights that made me feel like I was staring at the harsh light of a phone screen, or the annoying ping that made me feel anxious and yet tethered the two worlds together (loneliness/community or Reality/ Fantasy), some moving boxes and a tiny orange chair for props (when both their presence was finally explained was entirely heartbreaking), the result however spoke volumes and really allowed Pollock to be the shining star.

Rough Trade is a hilarious, heart felt romp that will have you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Poll0ck is a brilliant playwright and can guarantee send you home to Marie Kondo everything you own and questioning what am trading off in my life for the sake of others.

So when life gives you lemons, heck trade them in for something sweeter ...or maybe that little bit sexier.

At the Seymour Centre until 10 September 2022 as part of Sydney Fringe Festival.