JOHN: So you no longer have a venue for your show at the Leicester Comedy Festival in February.
SARA: That’s right.
SARA: Because the CEO of the venue I was booked in suddenly flatly refused to have me perform.
SARA: He or she didn’t say. But he or she did say he or she would not be persuaded and he or she was obviously horrified by the subject matter.
JOHN: So he or she accepted your show and then changed his or her mind?
SARA: Well, the wonderful Big Difference Company had programmed it in the venue as a Valentine’s Day show – which I thought was a brilliant idea – and the CEO then looked at the line-up after the brochure had been printed – and absolutely, categorically would not allow me to perform.
JOHN: You had already paid to go in the brochure…
SARA: Yes. The CEO totally, categorically agreed to pay me a figure I won’t divulge NOT to perform the show at the venue.
JOHN: Can you perform it somewhere else in Leicester?
SARA: At this point, most venues are full – the brochure has been printed. I started discussing a venue for this show back in August – before my run at the Edinburgh Fringe had finished – and the brochure deadline was mid-October.
JOHN: What’s the title of the show?
SARA: A Beginner’s Guide to Bondage.
JOHN: One might think the CEO could have got a hint of the subject from the title.
SARA: Possibly. But I suppose it could have been about a housewife ‘chained’ to the kitchen sink.
JOHN: Or someone who just liked James Bond films.
SARA: Indeed… I am sure we would have sold out on Valentine’s Day night. People are interested in the subject. That’s the thing about this show. Audiences are interested. But the critics don’t want to know. The press don’t want to know. The publicists at the Edinburgh Fringe didn’t want to represent me. I tried to get a publicist. Couldn’t get one. Yet, at the end of the day, I was sold out every single performance.
JOHN: I’m never totally convinced about the value of publicists at the Fringe.
SARA: I felt I would never get reviewed at the Fringe if I didn’t have a publicist. And I wasn’t. And that was – is – the reality. To book a tour for this show is possibly impossible.
JOHN: Though your show got audiences in in Edinburgh – which is no mean feat.
SARA: My show is a feminist and funny look at all the weird and wonderful kinks that people can have. It’s not judgmental and it’s not for the raincoat brigade. One chap from the raincoat brigade came to see it in Edinburgh. He came in his raincoat with a plastic bag and sat by himself in the crowded back row. He walked out after about ten minutes and complained to the manager that he thought the show was very sexist and anti-male – particularly, I assume, anti white, middle class men. I felt I should put that quote on my programme! He was the only person who has ever been offended, apart from a Tory lady who was offended by what I said about Boris Johnson.
JOHN: Which was?
SARA: I said that I would like to use my massive strap-on on him. Usually, that gets rounds of applause and shrieks of laughter, particularly in Scotland, where they are not very fond of Boris or Brexit. But there happened to be a party of Tory voters in who – although they liked the show… Well, one lady felt morally upset that I was bringing politics into my show.
But a dominatrix is a human being with a political opinion and it’s my show and I can say what I like. Without a doubt, all of the dominatrices I have ever met were Left Wing and all of their security guards were Right Wing.
JOHN: Security guards?
SARA: They all have security. Someone to answer the door and security at night. Sometimes they are ex-Army and usually they are Right Wing. I think dominatrices tend to be Left Wing.
SARA: (LAUGHS) Maybe because they like beating rich toffs for money.
JOHN: So the Tory lady who went to your show did not object to the title or subject of the show.
SARA: No. Just me dissing Boris Johnson.
JOHN: Did you have the ‘dead dad’ bit that all successful Edinburgh shows are supposed to have?
SARA: I included a sad story, yes. But the Tory lady who didn’t like my Boris Johnson references said she didn’t understand why there was a deeply-upsetting, sad moment. My reaction was: Well, you don’t understand how you write a play or a comedy show. There is always a climax and then a resolution.
SARA: If you are writing a play, you call it the climax. In comedy, it’s the ‘dead dad’ moment and then you get them back laughing again.
JOHN: The show was a success in Edinburgh…
SARA: It sold out. There were queues down the street. Hardly any of my friends could get in to see it – Only if they told me when they were coming and I physically reserved them a seat.
JOHN: Who were the audience in Edinburgh?
SARA: In the main, young – under 26 – and more women than men. On the few nights when there was a bit of a geezerish crowd – a chav crowd – the sort of guys who sat in the front row hopin’ I’d get me tits out – they didn’t laugh half as much and I didn’t enjoy performing to that crowd at all.
I had one night when it was a predominately male audience with a few of these geezers sitting in the front – they were quite big and made me feel quite threatened. After that, in every performance, I would pick either couples or a group of girls who didn’t look too frightening and ask them to sit in the front row. So I couldn’t be heckled by people who had come to the show for the wrong reasons.
The thing is it’s a Fem-Dom show. Which part of Fem-Dom didn’t audience members understand? Did they not know I would be taking the piss out of certain men? Not in a horrible way, because my show does not judge even the slightly yuck fetishes. We live in a free society.
Nowadays, we have transgender, transvestite, gay shows. We have all types of things. But it seems like ‘kink’ and bondage is still an unpronounceable thing. Why should that be so? Let people do what they like in the bedroom. We can laugh and giggle. I show my delight at people’s eccentricity. Everyone has a right to express themselves.
JOHN: Did you aim your show at a particular type of person?
SARA: I have a friend who is a theatre director and he told me: In your show, reach out to the ‘vanilla’ couples in the audience and let them know it’s OK to experiment. It’s not abnormal. So I end my show with a little speech to the vanillas, offering them a little role-play exercise they can do with each other to discover if they are sub or dom or neither or vanilla or double vanilla.
JOHN: Or strawberry whip.
SARA: Exactly. I give them that speech and they seem to enjoy that.
JOHN: How do you know so much about the subject of bondage?
SARA: I take the Fifth Amendment, but I spent three years writing this show. Everything in it is true. Even ‘the nose man’.
JOHN: The nose man?
SARA: The nose man needs his nose to be stimulated in order to achieve any sort of gratification. Now – look – that is quite amusing, you have to admit.
JOHN: Does he think it’s amusing?
SARA: No. But it is a known fetish. It’s called nasophilia.
JOHN: Well, people sometimes like their ears fiddled with – that’s aural sex.
SARA: There is a fetish for everything.
JOHN: You mentioned rubbish.
SARA: ‘Rubbish Boy’ likes you to put him in a wheelie bin and cover him with rubbish.
JOHN: Smelly rubbish?
SARA: Any kind of rubbish. So my character in the show – Mistress Venetia, the ‘dotty dominatrix’ – one time she put him in the bath tub and covered him with all the rubbish from the flat and he wanked himself to completion. Of course, I made him clean it up afterwards – half a bottle of bleach – he loves that.
Another time, Mistress Venetia put him in a pair of ballet tights and taught him some ballet moves. Bend-down-stretch… bend-down-stretch. She taught him a pas de chat and he was leaping all over the dungeon. That is a true story. He said it was the best day of his life. The real man is quite chubby and had never been asked to do ballet before.
JOHN: So the good people of Leicester are not going to hear any of this.
SARA: Not without a venue, they aren’t.