The Hoes

Play: The Hoes Playwright: Ifeyinwa Frederick Director: Lakesha Arie-Angelo Theatre: Hampstead Theatre Downstairs Review by Cherise Lopes-Baker

Ifeyinwa Frederick’s debut play follows the joys and tribulations of three black girlfriends as they party their way through a revealing trip to Ibiza.

Though the beginning is a light-hearted examination of the group’s quarter-life crisis, it escalates exponentially to address issues of severe depression, suicide attempts and rape.

Each woman approaches their sexuality and the societal judgement of worth differently. Bim (Marième Diouf), a British-Nigerian Oxford graduate, wields her sexuality as a shield. It’s something she can call on for humour, pleasure and proof of control.

Jasmine (Nicola Maisie Taylor), a successful business owner, attempts to build a wall between herself and her sexuality. Bending to the will of familial pressures, she attempts to find validation in abstaining from sex. Alex (Aretha Ayeh) begins the trip settled and seemingly in full control of her steady job and steady boyfriend, but soon reveals her deep discontent with both.

Alex is not the only one to unravel. While she explores affairs outside her relationship, Jasmine (aka J) gives up trying to mould herself to her family’s ideas of virtue through marriage and purity, and instead embraces her ‘hoeship’ in the club.

As Alex and J grow through their exploration, deep cracks begin to show through Bim’s carefree exterior. Soon her energy turns frenetic. The audience is given an intimate view of her mental breakdowns as she wavers between avoiding her anti-depressants or consuming them all. This boils to a crescendo when a sexual encounter with a mutual acquaintance escalates past her consent.

The three women bring distinct energies to the stage, creating a communal bond that envelopes the audience and invites emotional investment. Marième Diouf shines the brightest as the effusive Bim, veering dramatically between episodes. Nicola Maisie Taylor is in control as the assured and driven J, while Aretha Ayeh plays Alex to relatable perfection as she balances her indecision and mistakes with taking care of her friends.

The Hoes is a powerful examination of friendship in the face of individual crises and the layers of discontent which plague and accompany growth.

The Hoes is at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs until Saturday 1 December 2018.