With the recent news of OnlyFans making moves to ban – and then, within the week, un-ban – adult content on its site, Niamh Murphy’s debut show Cash Point Meet seems especially prescient. It explores the lives of Emma (played by Murphy) and Sinéad (played by Ava Hahessy Madigan), two Irish women struggling with the lack of autonomy and dignity provided to them in the world of work. Their lives are changed when they realise that they can instead achieve financial stability by meeting up with men at ATMs and getting paid to humiliate them as a form of financial domination. However, their paths diverge as Emma gets more involved with the sex work legalisation movement, while Sinéad realises that the entire experience isn’t what she expected.
Cash Point Meet’s strongest asset is its two leads: Murphy and Hahessy Madigan have a great deal of chemistry, and bring emotional depth to a charged issue. They present their characters’ attitudes towards sex work in a balanced manner, helping us get into their heads and understand rationale behind their differing choices. It is the scenes which focus on their friendship – drinking, getting ready to go out, reconciling after arguments – which are the most moving and convincing. We feel Emma’s excitement at finding a community she identifies with and a cause she can advance, while also understanding Sinéad’s turmoil when she feels unsafe and wants to quit.
Unfortunately, the show’s attention is scattered over a few too many issues. During its 75-minute runtime, it touches on homelessness, HIV, human trafficking, migrant workers’ rights, revenge porn, male suicide, the Dublin housing crisis, wage slavery, unionization, and more. Many of these topics are very relevant to sex work, but it’s difficult to do them justice simultaneously. Furthermore, the show is not particularly subtle when introducing these topics – for example, a discussion between Sinéad and a member of the Sex Workers Alliance about the status of sex work in Irish law ends up feeling more like a Q&A session that an actual conversation. Again, this topic is extremely important and necessary to discuss; as such, it would perhaps benefit from being incorporated in more a natural manner.
Cash Point Meet provides an interesting – albeit slightly heavy-handed – introduction into the legal and personal complexities of sex work in Ireland, exploring the nature of online sex work while also emphasising the wider spectrum of sex workers’ experiences. The most successful aspect of the show, however, lies in the development of its two characters, and the progesssion of their relationship.