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Review: SNATCHED, Soho Theatre

Melissa Johns writes and stars in a play about sex and disability

Review: SNATCHED, Soho Theatre Review: SNATCHED, Soho Theatre

Hot off the stage of The Donmar Warehouse where she starred opposite Kit Harrington in Henry V, Melissa Johns is a disabled actress whose iCloud account was hacked in 2018, leading to the release of intimate photos. Her play, Snatched, is autobiographical, documenting her struggle as a disabled woman to come to terms with societal expectations of sexuality and femininity.

Snatched probes at questions about sexuality and disability but not far enough to leave a lasting impression. In relying so heavily on autobiography, the play lacks a dramatic pull to add a depth to the questions that it wants to answer.

A rocky start in the form of a frivolous faux-awards ceremony for humanitarian overachievers is not quite funny enough to be parody and feels tenuous in relation to the rest of the play. Luckily Johns has enough charisma to save the production. Through tender reflections on the millennial experience of femininity, recounted with an endearing concoction of nostalgia and mortification the play finds its footing.

The real heart of the show lies where Johns recounts awkward teenage encounters with boys, MSN dial tones, and missing out on the dreaded "Macarena" dance routine due to her body. Her disability is not the focal point here, it is a lens that colours these experiences rather than supplies them. Because of this, her disability acts as splinter in the eye that magnifies issues about the objectification, sexuality, and the female body in the age when social media and the internet were embryonic.

The added pageantry of mock interviews on Good Morning UK and other gimmicks is too predictable a way of framing the narrative and only serves to distract from the emotional core of the play.

Johns' story culminates with the release of private photos and the fallout she must navigate as a result. But in not searching for anything deeper beyond autobiography, at times the narrative feels two dimensional. The more interesting questions go unresolved as a consequence.

Interestingly the very act of performance itself becomes catharsis for Johns. Sharing her experience, family photos, and home videos becomes a way of coming to terms with her relationship with her body and the life that she did not believe was possible for her to have. All this is partly achieved through a collective narrative experience with an audience's presence. It certainly makes for a unique theatrical experience, but for all the sentimentality, it is a shame that the audience do not receive as much in return.

Musician Imogen Halsey must be commended for her performance. She underpins the play by adding an emotional layer of verisimilitude to Johns' autobiography. Who knew that a cello cover of the Vengaboys' infernal "Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!" could be so melancholic.

In its current iteration Snatched feels unpolished. There are seeds of poignancy that with enough revision can blossom, but the play, in its current form, has a too nebulous focus to address the themes it wants to tackle.

Snatched runs at Soho Theatre until 18 May
Photo Credit: Meurig Marshall

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