22nd September, 2015
‘As for what came next, things unspoken and untold until now, it happened like this…’
Once upon a time fairy tales weren’t meant just for children and neither is Cordelia Lynn’s Royal Court debut play, ‘Lela & Co’. It’s like a subversive 90 minutes take on a traditional fairy story. We join Lela (Katie West) in her mind; a surreal world of neon lights, leather furniture, plush red curtains and black and white floor. Lela is dressed in a tutu, swings in her rattan chair, speaking in a thick Yorkshire accent.
At first, Lela’s monologue is lyrical and excitable as she introduces us to her childhood, when she lived with sisters, Em and Elle, together with her parents and grandmother. Lela warns us, she will be telling ‘the whole truth’ and as she does, her narrative darkens. When her sister Elle marries a man called Jay, the 15-year-old Lela is ‘married’ off on one of his ‘business associates’, and taken abroad to an unnamed country. Lela is abused by her husband, and then in her innocence, she is `passed on’ from hand to hand passed onto his friends as a sex slave, finally sold to anyone willing to pay. Her world contracts rapidly until it is the size of a dirty mattress. In one moment of the darkest humour, their marital relationship is presented as if it was a business: Lela & Co. Concurrent with this are ethnic tensions which result in armed struggle, bombings, shootings and invasions. War might be bad for business, but Lela’s husband has learnt to exploit the needs of soldiers, prostituting his wife and making money.