Talawa Theatre Company
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
This co-production with Talawa is a shining example of exactly why the Royal Court has its Upstairs theatre.
As the traditional home of new writing, the Royal Court should be giving opportunities to fresh debutantes like Nicôle Lecky who can demonstrate original voices speaking about the world as they see it today. The small-scale Upstairs space is then perfect for riskier or more experimental projects i.e. those from writers with little or no track record.
Adding to the attractions, under the direction of Jade Lewis, Miss Lecky performs the solo herself, re-enacting the ups and downs faced by Sasha Clayton, a young East Londoner whose life seems to have hit a dead end in the first few minutes. The adaptable actress also proves equally adept at portraying a weird and wonderful assortment of nine characters with whom the aspiring rapper interacts and, more often than not, eventually fights.
In the opening scenes of an 80-minute-long comic melodrama with serious undertones, we meet immature, 24-year-old Sasha, in some ways a working class, 21st-century successor to the female protagonists of classic novels such as Vanity Fair or Moll Flanders.
Her vacuous life is almost perfectly summed up by a spare set featuring little more than a cash machine, which supplements Sasha-cash by spewing out uncharacteristic messages: a suitcase and a can of Red Stripe.
Starting life as the mixed-race daughter of a single parent who subsequently marries into middle-class white stock, Sasha feels like an outcast. Her primary outlet is music and an EP that is never likely to get released.
On the plus side, her long-term boyfriend Anton sounds like a good thing, although her excessive intake of alcohol and hard drugs puts the relationship under strain. It also makes home life difficult, particularly when the young woman could easily become a bad influence for her highly intelligent 15-year-old half sister.
After one too many intoxicated episodes, Sasha finds herself on the street, briefly given sanctuary by a sleaze ball with mental problems before being “saved” by a Northern soul sister.
What initially impresses as a purely altruistic gesture soon exposes itself as something a little more commercial, when the Dickensian-named Carly Visions entices Sasha into the lucrative world of online sexual fantasy, before taking her several steps further to become the fully fledged Superhoe of the title.
What starts out as a light comedy with potentially tragic overtones eventually becomes a little darker before an ending that is a little too convenient for a play taking on such serious subject matter.
Although there are brief references to the fashionable topic of child abuse, this is not explored in any depth, which is a pity since it would have been interesting to understand its impact on a damaged and troubled woman.
While Superhoe may not be a perfect piece of theatre, Nicôle Lecky shows great promise both as a writer and actor and might even have an alternative career on the cards as a rapper, on this occasion delivering songs that she co-composed with The Last Skeptik. She is definitely one to follow.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher