‘Cash Point Meet’ — Sex, work, and financial domination

Cash Point Meet, written and starring budding theatremaker Niamh Murphy, is now showing at Edinburgh Fringe.
Courtesy of Niamh Murphy

Cash Point Meet, written and starring budding theatremaker Niamh Murphy, is now showing at Edinburgh Fringe. In Murphy’s debut production, comes the challenges of not just writing and starring in a play for international audiences. The show comes introduced to a new world, a world midst a pandemic. But also, it’s a new endeavour in theatre for online audiences. Furthermore, it’s a huge challenge in taking on a story about sex work and taking on the story of immigrants. But most importantly, and at its core, Cash Point Meet is a story about young people and their search for place in a — sometimes — unfair world. Here, is where the heart and universal appeal can be found. For Murphy, it is even a personal story but one all the more important in modern Ireland.

The play centres around two young women from rural backgrounds, Emma and Sinéad, as they find their way living independently in Dublin. Emma, coming from a modest home and grieving the loss of her father, works in a fast-food restaurant. She spends her time cleaning up sick and catching gratuitous nudity on her nightly shifts, all the while wanting a quick escape to enjoy the life she so wants.

Emma and Sinéad struggle with the lifestyle, despite its benefits

Sinéad comes from a more privileged background, yet one with all the personal turmoil that comes in finding independence after college. Her career as a visual artist struggles, as does her relationships, but she carries all the same ambitions as Emma in want for a quick solution to her problems. Then, a boy on Tinder asks for a cashpoint meet that offers a freedom the girls hadn’t expected before.

“Through Emma and Sinéad, we’re introduced to these problems and, hopefully, have made them more accessible”

“The play is about Emma and Sinéad as they stumble upon this type of sex work called a cashpoint meet,” said Niamh Murphy, speaking with Theatremaker.ie. A cashpoint meet, other than being an entertaining Google search, is a type of fetish. It is a type of financial domination in which the dom will meet someone at an ATM to take their money.

Emma and Sinéad at the titular cashpoint meet

“The two girls go into this world of sex work and as they do, they discover the full scope of sex work, and workers’ rights,” said Murphy. Cash Point Meet is about all the things that intersect with living in Dublin; a housing crisis, direct provision, even going out and drinking. They all impact young people and, for Murphy,  this was a hugely important aspect in writing.

“Through the character of Emma and Sinéad, we are introduced to all these problems and hopefully, we can make them more accessible as they experience them,” Murphy said in the familiar setting of a Zoom meeting.

“There’s this familiar theme of low-paid work that leans into why the girls might want to do the cashpoint meet,” said Murphy. “The difference between doing these long hours for very little money, compared with very short hours and high pay.”

At the core of the play, according to Murphy, are worries around money and work. Those worries are what brings the girls on, what Murphy called, a “modern coming-of-age story,” as the girls find their way through a world that isn’t quite as glamorous as they once thought.

The themes of sex work are stark and well addressed. Perhaps these are addressed in a manner that is rarely spoken of in mainstream art or media.

“They have this ignorance to the world,” said Murphy on the girls’ beginnings in sex work. “A lot of the depictions of sex work can either be really damning or unnecessarily empowering with this ‘fuck the patriarchy’ kind of thing.”

Challenging the norms

Emma is played by Niamh Murphy, and shows versatility in a number of different roles

Instead, Cash Point Meet is a very real depiction of sex work. A depiction that takes the focus away from the girls and reflects the true stories of those involved in a work that is disproportionally taken up from those in marginalised communities. In the production, and without giving too much away, this is done impactfully, using some of the opportunities in the new era of online theatre.

Behind the scenes, this is also a really interesting debut for Murphy. Having graduated the Lir in 2019, Murphy went on to write Cash Point Meet shortly afterward. Beginning in Wexford Arts Centre and finally getting the show to Edinburgh Fringe is an enormous achievement. Not to mention, the show was filmed for online but done in the familiar setting of the stage.

“You really have a lot to work with in the online theatre world, but we wanted to concentrate more on what we can do differently and how we can make this work to our advantage,” said Murphy. “You won’t get the same feeling of being in a theatre when watching it on a laptop screen, but you have to take that into account also.”

Among these challenges also lie the problems of writing such an important story, and Murphy questioned if this was her ‘story to tell.’ But these stories will be familiar on some level to many. “Experience,” Murphy said, “can be used to enrich these stories and make them hit hard.”

Anyone who has had a job they don’t like will find something relatable in the story of Emma and Sinéad. But the stories also show a new Ireland and one that has a changing face. The stark political commentary on the Nordic Model introduced in Irish legislation to ‘protect’ sex workers is vital. Murphy covers these topics with great emphasis. Cash Point Meet isn’t just a coming-of-age story, it’s a story much needed in the modern Irish context.

Catch Cash Point Meet on the Fringe Player here.

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