REVIEW: Body & Sold - Park Theatre

A (well) rehearsed reading of a play that was initially commissioned to investigate domestic abuse among teenage couples, developed through artwork created in a refuge for trafficked women in Nepal, and staged as part of Park Theatre's 'Young Lives Today' project: Body & Sold looks at the real stories behind young people who have run away from home across America.

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Body & Sold came out of a play originally based around domestic violence in teenage relationships, developed after the writer heard the stories behind artwork in an exhibition from a trafficked women's shelter in Nepal, and is aiming to be staged in schools to raise awareness of what is, according to the gentleman from the NSPCC, quite a big issue amongst young people today.

For a young cast they were all very strong, especially considering the two day rehearsal time (Zoe Howard as Young Girl was only recruited the previous evening). Some of the American accents were occasionally a little squeaky, nasal, or far too stereotypical to be believable (evident mainly from Gemma Kenny who, while strong, was cast in a very cliched role, and Joshua Oakes-Rogers), and there was a lot of  "hand-acting" which I, as a rule, vehemently dislike.

However, as stated, this was a rehearsed reading with a short lead time, so I can overlook these quirks because of the powerful writing and strong direction from Deborah Lake Fortson and Prav MJ respectively.

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From an original production of Body & Sold

Fortson interviewed young people across America, and their testimonies have been reproduced verbatim; some stories have been combined for narrative interest, and names have been changed to protect victims. As empathetic and insightful as these stories were, I would have liked to have heard more from the boys and their experiences: a lot of work is being done to raise awareness of abuse against women and girls and I am not for a second suggesting that this is not admirable and essential, but more work needs to be done to provide the same outlet and recognition that young boys and men are just as vulnerable.

The stand out actor for me was Daniel Collins as Billy, initially conveying a dark, brooding menace as the omniscient pimp to each of the characters, hovering and intimidating throughout. Strangely, he lost that threatening quality once his character began to talk - I feel as though it was his strong silence that lent the role its dangerous facet.

I also liked the symbolism of the Little Girl and the doll: although the character rarely spoke, Zoe Howard absorbed everything going on around her with a beautiful naivety, and, although no characters interacted with her, there were moments of fear for this innocent's future.

Overall this was a strong staging with an important message, and, despite a couple of small niggles, including some very peculiar poetic language at the end, which jarred with the directness of the rest of the play, I believe this deserves a wider audience.


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