Writer: Nicôle Lecky
Director: Jade Lewis
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty
There is a lot to get through in this tight, 85 minute, single-performer show. Nicôle Lecky wrote this show, is the single performer and absolutely doesn’t let up as she pushes through the tough life she created for Sasha Clayton. It’s a massive show with drugs, prostitution, identity and racial issues heaving throughout, and poverty running in a strangling thread around it. It’s as funny as it is bleak at and also downright joyful at times, but everything comes to the audience with a full story so we can really see the context behind her decisions, her life, her struggles.
We’re meeting Sasha at 24, an aspiring singer / rapper with an EP about to drop and make waves. She’s living with her mum, her stepdad and her half-sister Megan – “the perfect trio, and then there’s me.” After being booted from home for troubled, and troubling, behaviour she enters a world where sex and sexuality is traded for a tangible reward. Moving in a painfully logical progression from sex for a bed for the night, to cam work, hostessing, escorting and dangerous, unprotected prostitution the play’s not for the faint-hearted. Sasha’s brave and vulnerable, proud and nervous – she’s just great to watch as a stage character.
Lecky has drawn the character so well that not only can we sympathise, almost empathise, with her but we can also nearly understand why she acts the way she does. Stripping and performing sexual acts on camera for cash is not going to be a familiar feeling for a lot of us – but through Sasha we can begin to understand. The sympathetic, educated and balanced approach to sex work is good here – a strong stance on a tough issue.
Also impressive is the presentation of the thoughts, feelings and ideas associated with growing up and being mixed race in London today. For a large part of the audience, this may be completely new. The language, attitudes, dynamics and pressures of being young, cashless and mixed race today may come as a shock and it’s a credit to Lecky and Director Jade Lewis that this piece communicates a complex theme so well.
Lit by Prema Mehta and backed by a fantastic soundtrack of music from The Last Skeptik – with songs and lyrics by Lecky herself – it’s a punchy show for many senses. Sasha jokes, but makes little effort to hide the tears of the clown from us – the audience she imagines when she sings alone in her room. This is the first collaboration between the Talawa Theatre Company and the Royal Court, and Lecky’s Royal Court debut. Hopefully, this paves the way for more work from the trio.
Runs until 16 February 2019 | Image: Helen Murray