TOUR DE FORCE: Nicole Lecky wrote and stars in one-woman production Superhoe, which had a sell-out run at the Royal Court Theatre in London
SUPERHOE HAD a sell-out run at the Royal Court Theatre (RCT) in London and got five-star reviews, to the surprise of writer and actor Nicôle Lecky, who was making her debut.
A co-production between the Talawa Theatre Company and the RCT, Lecky, who was part of Soho Theatre’s Writers Lab 2016-2017 and is a recent recipient of the Creative Skillset and Dancing Ledge Productions’ High-end Television Levy Writers’ Bursary, can’t wait to see how the one-woman play is received in Brighton next month.
Life & Style: First, a sold-out run at the Royal Court Theatre, and now Brighton Festival is excited to welcome the show – you must be over the moon?
Nicôle Lecky: Yes, 100 per cent. The Royal Court Theatre was my dream venue to have a debut play, it’s the home of new writing.
In this day and age, when people tell you in a roundabout way not to aim too high, in my head, I wanted it on in London.
It’s set in London, I’m from London myself and I think the formula is for people like me to go to the Fringe, try and get a hit and come back, whereas I was pretty adamant that I wanted it on in the capital and I wanted people from there to see it and for it to work out that way.
So now I’m off to Brighton, it’s just the cherry on the cake, really.
L&S: How did the debut feel? What were the emotions after the first time you performed it?
NL: I was overwhelmed, really. Writing is such an insular thing.
I was writing in my room and still had a job. I was still working and at that time, I guess I wasn’t writing it for anybody apart from myself, because I was interested in the story.
So for it to have the response that it did, I was just really overwhelmed and shocked that so many people were able to relate to it and in so many different ways, and that it got the reviews it did and the response from people who spoke to me immediately afterwards. It was a blessing, really.
L&S: What can people expect to see when they attend?
NL: It’s really funny and it can be quite shocking at times. I think when you think about people from certain socio-economic backgrounds, I think you expect them to be a victim.
There’s none of that woe-is-me in Superhoe.
She’s a real tour de force, basically. Irrespective of the circumstances around her, she doesn’t victimise herself and she ploughs on.
The play has real warmth, lots of heart and I can’t forget to mention the music.
L&S: Tell the truth, you’re a frustrated wordsmith, aren’t you? The type of woman that spits bars into her mirror like Issa Rae…
NL: The thing is, everybody watched it and was like, ‘When’s the EP coming?’. I got so many messages.
It even got to the stage where we really considered the fact that we had missed a trick, we should have had the EP available after the show, because as people walk out of the show, they are humming the last song I perform in the play.
Music is at the heart of everything I write. Even the TV stuff.
SOUNDTRACK: ‘Music is at the heart of everything I write,’ says Nicôle Lecky
A lot of people won’t do this, but when I write, I put in what songs I want to be in the scene.
My dad was a DJ growing up, so I think that’s where my love for music comes from.
I think music hits you in your soul – you can be so honest and truthful in music in ways you can’t through just speaking with somebody.
L&S: Sasha Clayton sounds like a lot of young adult women – was it easy to create the character and bring her to life?
NL: In a way. I guess I felt that she was a person I encounter.
I didn’t see that character out there who was nuanced. I think if you’re quite a loud, bolshy woman, then people are like, oh, you’re a bit of a yob. But Sasha is still really feminine and really girly.
She’s so many things, but people like to paint those types of women as very two-dimensional.
On one hand, she can be pretty outrageous and fairly nasty, actually, but then she also has this vulnerable side.
L&S: The play is a co-production between the Royal Court Theatre and Talawa Theatre Company. How important are collaborations and partnerships of this ilk?
NL: They were hugely instrumental, they co-produced it and really championed my work.
The minute they read it, they called me in and have been really supportive throughout the experience.
I’m a working class girl from east London and I don’t have anybody in my family who does it, so you need guidance.
You also need people who are going to put on your work and fund it.
It’s all well and good paying lip service, someone can advise you to do something, but will they actually put money into your project?
If Talawa hadn’t co-produced it, I don’t know how it would have got on.
IN CHARACTER: Nicôle Lecky on stage in Superhoe
L&S: Talk a little about the experience of working with director Jade Lewis?
NL: I love her, basically. I’m really on the front foot and Jade is a bit more on the back foot, so I think it was a really brilliant marriage.
I said from the jump that I wanted a black or mixed-race working class woman to direct it. That was my remit and it was hard to find one – there aren’t many out there.
Also, the ones that were out there and good enough were already working. As soon as she read it, Jade was on it, she loved it. Jade has also got her own passion for music, which I think was perfect for Superhoe.
L&S: Brighton Festival is the largest and most established annual curated multi-arts festival in England – did you ever envisage your work being exposed on platforms like this?
NL: You don’t – you have a hope, but I guess I was more surprised by the amount of different people who drew something from the story.
I knew that the play deals with different issues, but I have been surprised by the variety of people that think it’s an important story, so I think it will be really exciting to go down to Brighton and see what that response is. I’m also looking forward to seeing the other work on show at the festival.
Superhoe, written by Nicole Lecky, is on at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9RH. Performances are on Sunday, May 19 at 4.30pm and 8pm, Monday, May 20 and Tuesday, May 21 at 8pm. Tickets are £15 (under-26s go for £12.50) from brightonfestival. org. Age 14+. Duration 90 mins approx. sit brightonfestival.org
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