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Superhoe, Brighton Festival 2019 review - a darkly vital one-woman show | reviews, news & interviews

Superhoe, Brighton Festival 2019 review - a darkly vital one-woman show

Superhoe, Brighton Festival 2019 review - a darkly vital one-woman show

Nicôle Lecky's raw, persuasive play about sex work, social media and female empowerment

Nicôle Lecky as Sasha ponders the thrills of the "party" life versus the price to pay

Tonight comes with a caveat, delivered before proceedings begin by the one-woman show’s writer and performer Nicôle Lecky, who’s sitting in a chair centre-stage. She damaged her foot during Sunday’s matinee at the Brighton Festival, dancing about, and has since had to do the whole thing seated.

She assures us it was this type of read-through-style show that made the Royal Court Theatre originally commission the production in the first place. She hopes it will, therefore, not disappoint. It does not.

Lecky plays Sasha, a 24-year-old mixed-race woman who starts Superhoe living at home with her white mother, stepfather and stepsister who she describes in a startling showcase of filthy comic profanity. Clearly a somewhat lost soul, she aspires to pop stardom and the production opens with Lecky singing. She has a great and very contemporary soul voice. As the plot proceeds, Sasha slowly gives into the idea of becoming a solo webcam sex worker to tide her over financially.

From there, it’s like watching the proverbial car crash in slow motion, especially from the moment we’re introduced to Carly, a new “best friend” who allows Sasha to live with her and draws her incrementally into an increasingly sinister world of sex work. Whoever the pair meet and however much money they make, their true human value is negligible. “The ho’ wife never becomes the housewife,” sneers Carly at one point.

What starts as raw but funny, gradually becomes extremely bleak. It is also revelatory. The play peels back the insular world of Instagram “models” and casts a stark light on the manner in which aspirational social media personas may mask desperate unhappiness. In the end there are other revelations that reveal further truths about Sasha’s perception of herself and the world. Superhoe is not a polemic but it’s a vital indictment of contemporary value systems. One of its underlying themes is the relationship between women’s bodies and the free market in virtual space, whether that offers third/fourth wave feminist freedom or merely panders to grotesque, extant masculine desires.

Nicôle Lecky wears a white hoodie and grey tracksuit bottoms to play Sasha and the show takes place on a relatively bare stage, with a screen and cash point behind that occasionally spring to life, making points about the relationship between money and happiness. The grime-flavoured musical backing, created by London DJ-producer The Last Skeptik (Corin Douieb) emphasises the production’s contemporary feel, with Sasha riding it in rap and song, propelling the story forward.

Lecky makes the whole thing convincing, making key characters exist for us. Her streetwise wordplay is initially funny and, judging from the hearty giggles in the play’s first half, the audience is up for a laugh, but she persuades them to follow her down the pitch black well into which Sasha descends. There is eventually a resolution, of sorts, but the journey is astonishingly harsh, painting the sordid with unerring ruthlessness. Lecky is an actress whose career is just starting to gain real traction in film and TV but Superhoe reflects talents that go beyond performing. It is an important work that reflects back at us, in ways we perhaps hadn’t envisaged, what it is to be a young woman in 2019.

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