My top tip for this show, aside from go and see it right now: don’t be shy. It’s all incredibly fun and, more importantly, friendly. I had no idea what I was in for with this show, but I felt totally looked after, from the minute I arrived by a non-descript door on a side road in Farringdon and was asked cheerfully “are you here for the cleaning show?” before being directed up to the space. As we took our seats were greeted by both Ethan Mechare, the frontman of this piece, and his stage manager and sidekick Cath Royal, both of whom took a moment at the beginning of the show to outline some house rules and to make us feel comfortable – for example, Ethan assures us that no one will be forced to participate if they don’t want to, and the only person in the room who will be the butt of any jokes is the wonderful Cath.
It’s an intimate and interactive comedy event in which the audience are safe from the usual front-row dread of being picked on all night. It was incredibly relaxing, and forms a kind of bond between the audience and the performer which proves to be of central importance to the success of this piece: it is an evening spent in the company of strangers, connected by humour and humanity in a non-judgemental exploration of sexual fantasy.
Despite this show’s unusual topic, it really is incredibly un-salacious, an atmosphere helped by the performance space, which felt like a cross between a meeting room and a living room, with a small array of different chairs looking on to a vibrant set. There was a cosy rag rug, and a pink flamingo perched jauntily on the windowsill. Kitsch cleaning products were stacked on two small side tables, along with a gleaming pair of rubber gloves and an assortment of colourful, fluffy dusters. Henry the Hoover smiles with gentle knowingness from the corner as we are each handed a small white card and directed to write a sexual fantasy – either our own, or of someone else – that has been rebuffed or fulfilled. It’s anonymous, and strangely sweet: a collection of secrets, some bold and some timid, and some which may never have been shared before at all. Halfway through the show Ethan reads some of these out, and we are invited, if our card is chosen, to claim our fantasy and talk a bit about it. Most did claim their fantasies, to much applause from the rest of the audience. It was celebratory, liberated and incredibly supportive, and it was quite beautiful to be in a space so devoid of shame.
This was all expertly handled by Ethan, the eponymous naked cleaner, who gave a wonderfully energetic and insightful performance. He seemed remarkably sensitive to the moods of different audience members, pitching engagements and interactions perfectly. Ethan’s style is chatty and effervescent: there were brief moments when the script and performance seemed to gallop just slightly beyond his control, but this was always quickly and smoothly rectified, and as the performance progressed both Ethan and audience found a comfortable balance between high-energy hilarity and concentrated engagement. There were some extremely witty costume changes, and what I can only refer to as an inspired use of multi-media. The inclusion of little snack breaks was delightful: at strategic moments we were offered cheesy balls and jelly willies, no less, which were passed around and shared.
Ethan displayed a total lack of inhibitions, whilst also exploring the very real concerns he had regarding becoming a naked cleaner and what this might bring in terms of the shame and judgement of friends and family. This was not, as cabaret-style shows often are, a liberated fantasy land where everyone can do what/whoever they please, but a truthful exploration of the roles of repression and shame in our society and culture when it comes to sex and sexual fantasies. It was poignant, and thought-provoking, and leaves you with some space to consider and possibly begin to change your own relationship to sex and sexual fantasies. As Ethan says in the final section of this show, “the more I learned about these men the less I had to fear about myself”. I would encourage everyone to go and see this hilarious show, and learn some of that joyful fearlessness for yourselves.