Hen and Chickens Theatre, London – until 27 August 2022
Dominique Izabella Little’s 40-minute show Sold By Mama comes to the Camden Fringe, playing at the Hen & Chickens Theatre.
Prior to acting, Little worked as a docu-fiction filmmaker, and this show evolved from time living in New York in 2020 on very little money, people watching on buses and trains.
We have four women in the spotlight in this brief but focused play: a “businesswoman” (not a pimp, as that’s men’s work) and three whores who work for her. They are being interviewed for an unknown project.
One has a dream to go from street to stream via pornography. Elsewhere children are enlisted to feed a mother’s drug habit, or to entrap business owners in compromising positions.
Drugs are everywhere; abuse is rife from rape to violence. Gang rape and black eyes are spoken of in the same casual way. A neighbour who filmed children stripping and “playing together” is dismissed with a shrug.
This is the seedy, soiled reality of power plays in prostitution, where “creeps” sometimes fail to pay and “hos” take what they can get.
Watching this made me think of the recent Secrets of the Playboy Mansion, where you don’t have to receive money per transaction to mean you are being pimped or prostituting yourself.
These girls – voice and lighting apart – are interchangeable on their looks. Blonde, tousled hair; large breasts hardly contained; PVC shorts and stockings; lots of rings and silver painted nails.
Their stories are far from the often repeated mantra of sex workers and pornographers that they do their job willingly: although all four of these women clearly thrive on their ability to manipulate the men they encounter.
Oddly, while watching Sold By Mama I wondered what it would be like as a digital production intercutting between women who looked very different. It seems to lend itself to such an approach.
It could also stand expansion to a longer running time to give the stories more of a chance to hit home. I found myself feeling invested enough to feel slightly disappointed when the play came to an end.
There is so much here that each lady could easily have her own monologue, although I appreciate that one motivation of Little’s as writer may be to highlight a running thread throughout the piece.
Sold By Mama has one further performance this week at Camden Fringe: 27 August, 3pm, at the Hen & Chickens. You can purchase tickets here.
*** (and a half)
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