Glamour and grime in Soho


Lon­don in the late 1940s was a golden age for the world’s old­est pro­fes­sion.

David O’Donnell said in those days the sex in­dus­try was very ac­tive.

‘‘ Men were com­ing back from the war. So­ci­ety was in a poor state and the po­lice were very tol­er­ant of pros­ti­tu­tion.’’

That was to change with a ma­jor crack­down in the 1950s, but for a time glam­orous women trod Soho’s streets and worked the sor­did trade.

The late Bar­bara Tate en­tered this world as a naive young woman to be­come a pros­ti­tute’s maid.

West End Girls was her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy and Welling­ton play­wright Ken Dun­cum has drama­tised it.

The play’s world pre­miere was at Circa The­atre last week, di­rected by O’Donnell.

‘‘It is very much a comin­gof-age story,’’ he said. ‘‘ Bar­bara en­ters an un­be­liev­able seedy world, but at its core her story is about an in­cred­i­bly strong friend­ship be­tween the women.’’

The sex work­ers were all very well-dressed, wore tai­lored clothes and were very el­e­gant, he said.

Plays and films about pros­ti­tu­tion are of­ten about its dark side, O’Donnell said.

‘‘This is very much a cel­e­bra­tion of the job – these women go­ing about their job with glamour and hu­mour.’’

He and the cast in­ter­viewed some Welling­ton sex work­ers, he said.

‘‘ It was in­ter­est­ing that noth­ing had changed. The women said that it was more com­edy than tragedy.’’

West End Girls is at Circa The­atre un­til Septem­ber 1. It con­tains adult themes and con­tent that may of­fend some peo­ple. To book call 801 7992 or visit


Please write kicker and cap­tion: From left, Gavin Rutherford, Jes­sica Robin­son, Paul Wag­gott and Vic­to­ria Ab­bott.

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