No minute wasted – Sold by Mama by Dominique Little at the Hen and Chickens Theatre

Sold By Mama are forty intense, uncomfortable but also funny monodrama minutes written and performed by Dominique Izabella Little who found inspiration for her snippety collage of interviews with prostitutes during her Hollywood commute through the streets of Los Angeles. You do not have to have visit California’s City Of Angels to know about its extreme gap between rich and poor and the almost omnipresent problem of homelessness, lived by those with failed and shattered dreams from anywhere, no paperwork and because some full-time jobs simply do not pay enough to settle in bricks and mortar – and because being homeless is a crime in itself in plenty of other US states.

I wish all theatre flyers would be that informative

The length of the play reflects an overrunning “date”, already clocking in extra payable minutes. There could be more stories told by the four interviewees (all played by a single actor) but then what is shared gives a staggering amount of food for thought. I might not remember every bit of jargon, but what sticks is a reminder not to assume that prostitution is a choice of self-determined empowerment but for almost all the only way available to make a living for themselves and often their families. Having regulars and an income can be a first achievement for some who never had one genuinely caring for or believing in them, working a job not everyone can grant dignity to those never been given any fair chance to prove themselves. And being the one your boyfriend looks at when you are asleep is, well, an ego push. We hear of honestly meant career aspirations from those wanting to move “up” into the sex film industry to be discovered for rap videos, and shocking “success stories” from those having moved from a tent to a car – because they turned learnings into earnings, is one of many business rules shared.

Dominique Izabella Little as photographed by Jessica Burgess

There is no glamourous, happy end-ambitious Pretty Woman here, no enchanting, whimsical Irma La Douce, no “just want to pay back my university fees” parody of feminism – instead plastic bling and plenty of proof that those with the weakest support network are being groomed most and from an unbelievable early age onwards with no chance to escape. Once in, assuring the children you provide for are church goers is not enough to leave this life behind you. Let’s pray that those Christian values are enough not to drag the family in as well, a destiny mentioned more than once because everybody looked away or because no one was there who could have interfered. All stories shared are already survivor stories, with no mentioning of support available for adults and those coming of age. Hence, having a female pimp rather than a male one is the better option because days need to be structured, and self-motivation can be low while the cost of living won’t come down. We hear of neglect and abuse from birth families and foster parents, creepy neighbours and manipulative “friends”, gangs, well-meaning strippers, debts, addiction, drugs, trauma but also of discipline, finding God, marriage proposals, creeps and predators, unhelpful laws and its enforcement which does not protect but punishes its victims. It is almost as if most have made their peace with being stuck at the bottom of shady multi-million industry, even when it means that “rape is part of the job”, at least occasionally.

Again, this is a lot of content for a short play which fits North London’s ongoing Camden Fringe festival well, even it is 5447 miles away from California’s largest city. Tonight’s show starts a bit later than scheduled because of a suicide on the Victoria Line – I only barely make it to the Hen & Chickens Theatre in Islington. During the performance we hear the sirens of ambulances and police cars on the busy roads outside the building. Never, ever assume that social inequalities, desperation and exploitation, forced sex trade and organised abuse and grooming of children and adults are not happening here. Or that enough social services are available to detect and help those needing them most. Just don’t look away.

The Hen & Chickens Theatre is just two walking minutes away from Highbury & Islington station

***** out of five stars

Sold By Mama performed in August at the Hen & Chickens Theatre and then again in September in Islington’s Hope Theatre. Tickets £10-16

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