“If you haven’t landed a ticket for Superhoe yet, it’s almost worth standing around outside to pick up any energy and warmth that may leak out of the air conditioning…”
Sasha Clayton (Nicôle Lecky), a twenty-something from Plaistow, describes herself as a “singer slash rapper”, and we do hear her do both during the course of this extraordinary new, one-woman play. But she is, in fact, neither: that’s just her dream. Her reality is a complicated series of setbacks and attempts to remain in control of her life.
Superhoe is the first collaboration between The Royal Court and the Talawa Theatre Company, set up to help black talent, and it’s astonishing.
Throughout the performance, Lecky holds us gripped, anxious and entertained as she brings Sasha to life. She is able to create all the vanity, vulnerability and fragile swagger of a young woman trying to bridge the gap between her yearning for fame and the glum monotony of the bedroom in which she spends much of her life. Through her frankly spooky mastery of accents and mannerisms (the rapping and the singing, not her only superpowers) she makes the people around her main character come to life so effectively that you might almost believe that you can see them.
We went along not knowing all the details of the performance. And so, as the show came to an end and we’d finished wildly applauding and reassembling our emotional equilibrium, we snatched at the leaflets by the door to find out who’d written Lecky this fantastic part.
As it turns out, it was Lecky herself. Which meant that we spent an hour in the bar afterwards essentially saying, “And she wrote the whole thing herself!” over and over again. That someone so talented, wasn’t already a household name either as an actress or a playwright was too much to deal with… surely there can be no secret sensations anymore?
Superhoe is hugely modern, in the sense the play deals with sexual exploitation, social media and the language of empowerment. However, it also brings to mind the kitchen sink classics of the Fifties. It’s hard not to think of A Taste of Honey as class, morality and dreams of escape all collide.
It makes its points hard as it highlights the urgent problems facing young women without much money. It takes feminism away from the debates about board representation and equal pay for TV presenters and puts it firmly back into Plaistow – where the power given to men and money can have very dark consequences. And then, on top of all of that, it’s a right laugh. Genuinely, properly funny in a way that theatre rarely manages to be.
Lecky has to be huge. She has to be. Superhoe’s run is almost over and fully booked. If they don’t extend it, transfer it, adapt it for TV and name a street in East London after it, something has gone massively wrong with our ability to spot and nurture new talent. If you haven’t landed a ticket, it’s almost worth standing around outside to pick up any energy and warmth that may leak out of the air conditioning.
If that isn’t possible, though, be sure to remember Nicôle Lecky. She’s a star slash genius.
Interest piqued? Find out more via the Royal Court Theatre website now.