Superhoe at the Royal Court Theatre
Superhoe, the Royal Court’s first collaboration with the Talawa Theatre Company, is like chatting with a mate whose bravado and disarmingly frank humour has you laughing so much that it takes you a while to realise the hell that has gradually become their daily life.
Sasha Clayton (writer and performer Nicôle Lecky) is cooking up an EP. In her bedroom. In her mum’s house. It’s not an ideal situation for the 24-year-old, especially one with a less than understanding stepdad and an irritant of a little sister. After one too many blackout nights – that may or may not have involved botanical arson – the young woman is kicked out of the house, putting her on a journey through the seedy side of social media fame.
Lecky’s narrative moves methodically; not without flair, but with a necessary level of careful escalation. A slow-motion car crash, we watch as Sasha goes from sleeping with a friend so she has somewhere to stay, to working as a camgirl, to hostess, to escort, to situations far more dangerous, each new step justified by the economic and emotional landscape the writer sets out.
The short-term safety and freedom of money, and the alluring game of pretend offered by Instagram – both slightly over-emphasised by the ATM/phone screen hybrid that lurks at the back of the stage – mingle with the well-buried pain and self-hatred that lie behind the character’s eff-everyone exterior. Sasha accepts her body as something to be traded, because for as long as she can remember it’s all she has had to try and create a space for herself, to try and draw out affection where it was elsewhere lacking.
As a performer, Lecky makes her character feel a lot younger than her 24 years, bruised – and perhaps somewhat stunted – by a traumatic past that often only comes out when she is on the attack. The protagonist is more vicious to herself than anyone else, internalising sexual assault as a deserved punishment.
The best moments come when Lecky takes to the mic. These musical interludes – produced in collaboration with The Last Skeptik – are when Superhoe shakes off its some of its stale one-person-show trappings, providing flights of imagination that not only allow the actor to strut like Cardi and croon like Aaliyah but cause Jade Lewis’s staging to come alive. Money rains from the ceiling, lyrics appear for the audience to sing along to and the mood shifts so that we’re in Sasha’s own personal live lounge. It’s in these segments that the play finds the purest and most original expression of the young woman’s increasingly horrifying situation, and the production would have been all the better for including a few more of them.
Photo: Helen Murray
Superhoe is at the Royal Court Theatre from 30th January until 16th February 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.