EdFringe 2019 Review: ‘Traumgirl’ and ‘Traumboy’

Traumgirl and Traumboy
Rating: ★★★
Venue: Summerhall Old Lab
Tickets: Traumgirl and Traumboy

Swiss performance art pieces Traumgirl and Traumboy play the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Summerhall’s Old Lab. These two separate shows act as intriguing responses to each other and are playing on rotating evenings this year. Both shows present a positive side to sex work – exploring it as an empowering sex positive choice from both performers.

Anna Welenc is Traumgirl and Daniel Hellman, Traumboy – who both note in their separate shows that ‘Traum’ means dream and not trauma. Both shows take on an interactive element with Welenc and Hellman encouraging audiences to Whatsapp or Tweet them – displaying their numbers and Twitter handles throughout the show and requesting audiences to message them with any questions throughout. Yet obviously a risky move if the audience choose not to, therefore Welenc and Hellman have constructed individual shows that explore how their chosen careers came to be with the text element slipping in around this.

Welenc explores her upbringing in Germany with a Polish father and an early interest in acting. She talks us through experiences with clients and experiences working in a brothel – a career that came after interviewing sex workers for part of a performance art project. Welenc is articulate and engaging as she explores her role – which she never glamorises but never condones. Mixing reflective storytelling with performance art stylistics creates a unique experience: Welenc lies naked with a bubble gun as we enter, she uses a voicechanger (representing the sex workers she interviewed), performs a seductive dance using a handheld camera, and takes part in a number of costume changes.

Traumboy is similar in style with Hellman also an engaging orator. He talks about his sexuality and how his career in sex work was kept with the utmost discretion as he pursued a career in opera. Similar to Welenc, Hellman discusses his love for sex and refusal to experience a sense of shame about his role. The differences in Hellman and Welenc’s personal experiences and artistic styles ensure that Traumboy and Traumgirl are both worth experiencing. There’s a performance of My Heart Will Go On in the former, which most certainly is not in the latter.

The texting element of the show is not a massive success, with few members of the audience choosing to participate. Uncomfortable audience interaction in Traumboy also feels like an unnecessary move – Hellman turns the questions on audience members – albeit asking for consent, it is somewhat uncomfortable hearing reluctantly fellow attendees have to share their thoughts. An interlude where audience members are expected to read explicit customer reviews in Traumboy is an unpleasant addition, with the microphone randomly thrust around the audience as Hellman goes for a costume change. 

Traumgirl and Traumboy are interesting pieces that explore sex work in a positive light. Welenc and Hellman’s personal stories are engaging and interestingly told in creative manners.

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