Writer Peta Brady talks to us about real life ‘Ugly Mugs’ and how they’ve informed her new play.

Street-based sex work is illegal in Victoria. This anomaly in the law creates barriers between police and street-based sex workers, who are hence less likely to report violent clients (known as ‘mugs’). It strips street-based sex workers of the legal rights that others, in different occupations, take for granted, and leaves the community more vulnerable.

Peta Brady in UGLY MUGS photo by Brett Boardman

‘Ugly Mugs’ is a grassroots pamphlet developed by the Prostitute Collective of Victoria (now RHED) in 1986. It was created as a response to the under-reporting of violent incidents committed against sex workers and the lack of support and protection they receive from police and legal institutions. My play Ugly Mugs is a look at the persistent vulnerability of women to violence on the street. (While not all sex workers are women, the majority of violent acts described in the pamphlet are against women.)

None of the ‘Ugly Mugs’ reports used in my play are anyone’s direct experience. I have stayed very close to the territory they contain without being specific enough as to be identifiable. The only non-fiction within my fiction has been obtained with consent. Thank you to those that have to this piece along the way. I have badgered many a friend, colleague, client, cast member and stranger. You have provided me with content and dramaturgy for which I am forever grateful.

Special thanks to Marion Potts for taking a chance on this one: for commissioning the work and her ongoing support throughout the entire process. I’m feelin’ the privilege. And to Lee Lewis at Griffin Theatre Company for also taking a risk on this new work: programming it and being so encouraging.

This story is inspired by those who endure violence on the street and at worst, those who have lost their lives. It is not about any one person. It is unfortunately the story of many.

Peta Brady

Ugly Mugs plays from 18 July – 23 August. For more information and to book, click here.