Satisfaction: articles

Alison Whyte finds satisfaction in sex worker role

SHE'S one of Australia's most accomplished television and stage performers, renowned for her depth and versatility.

But Alison Whyte, whose credits include Frontline, Good Guys, Bad Guys and the stage production, Don's Party, suddenly appears to have been dragged from her comfort zone.

Whyte plays sex worker Lauren in the edgy drama Satisfaction and, in a scene set in the show's upmarket brothel, Lauren's having a torrid time.

An energetic client has the flame-haired Lauren by the ankles and is thrashing her legs back and forth.

Surely, walking on to set naked to immerse herself in such a scene was a confronting moment in Whyte's career?

On the contrary, Whyte says, over coffee in a city hotel.

It's impossible to keep a straight face when you're being tossed round like a blow-up doll.

"You just don't get the chance to play a role like this all that often and for me I think the Lauren journey in the show is fantastic," Whyte says.

"So what if I'm showing a bit of skin? Who cares? I'm OK being naked. I've had too many children to be worried about things like that.

"So much a part of Lauren is her revealing herself and finding herself and those scenes are so integral to the drama. If you didn't show that stuff, I think it would be worse. You can't be coy."

Lauren, a former shop assistant in a lingerie store, started as a receptionist at the brothel before becoming the oldest sex worker on the roster.

In becoming a sex worker, Lauren seeks financial independence to break the shackles with her insensitive ex-husband and rebuild her self-esteem.

Whyte was sold on the role partly because of the show's creative team, including creator Roger Simpson, with whom she worked on Good Guys, Bad Guys, and producer Andy Walker.

She had unwavering faith in Paul Moloney, who directed her most challenging scenes and there were intensive discussions and rehearsals to ensure the cast knew what would be required.

"There's a lot of humour in it," Whyte explains.

"Paul didn't want to mix sex with violence. When I look at that (thrashing legs scene), I think it's funny.

"It was quite hilarious on set that particular day because I was in bed with seven different people. I didn't know what hit me.

"I've been with the same person (husband Fred Whitlock) since 1989 and the different smells and textures of skin and the different shapes of people . . . dealing with that made for one of the most interesting days of my career.

"But I don't think that the sex is gratuitous or over-cooked, I think it's very honest and if that happens to be controversial, so be it."

Unlike some of her co-stars, Whyte chose not to make late-night brothel visits to research the role.

"I have to get up in the morning to three small children and can't be bothered. I have to be in bed by 9pm."

Has her view of the sex industry changed?

"I still wouldn't work in it," she says.

"I'd always thought it would be a tough job and talking to women who work in it I think that's proven right.

"A lot of the women have double lives. Their children, for instance, have no idea what they do."

While she concedes she was a little nervous about her husband's reaction, she needn't have worried.

"After watching it, he turned the TV off and said, 'Well, I think it's the best work I've seen you do."

Whitlock, who's also an actor, has recently spent his time focused on the Yarra Glen Hotel, a pub the couple own in Melbourne's Yarra Valley.

"It's a beautiful old hotel and in fantastic condition," Whyte says.

"Fred thrives on stress. He's going to make a great Basil Fawlty."

Satisfaction, Showcase, tonight 7.30pm

By Darren Devlyn
January 22, 2008
The Courier Mail