Melissa Johns is a disabled actress and disability activist with a story to be told. In 2018, her smartphone was hacked and intimate photos were released. In Snatched, Johns uses the situation to speak out against body shaming and to combat taboos around disability, sex and body dysmorphia. It is an autobiographical account of her life and the trials and tribulations she has encountered as a disabled woman.
The play begins with Johns imagining winning the Miho Awards against the likes of Angelina Jolie and Michelle Obama. This reveals the hefty amount of confidence it has required for her just to participate in this world, and get to where she is today, a successful performer who recently appeared on the West End, and is seen on national television. The play self-effacingly recounts the story of her life from the age of six until the present day. Johns plays herself along with many other brilliantly characterised personalities that she has encountered. Comedy is interwoven between frank dialogue, with Johns displaying an array of voices, accents and humorously self-deprecating lines in such a derogatory way that you can’t help but giggle in shock at her lack of inhibition.
Director and Co-deviser Lily Levin balances the intensity with music, video projection and dialogue. As Johns bravely exhibits her intimate memoir, musician Imogen Halsey tells her own story throughout with harmonic singing, adding a depth to the scenes that lifts this piece to that next level.
Johns has divided each stage of her life up using a presenter named Mia Scorgen. This character acts as a perfect stereotype of the fake, untoward TV critic, while also quietly serving as the symbol of a discriminative and judgemental society. She displays different life hurdles as news titles on Good Morning Britain, asking how Johns has dealt with riding a bike, having sex, meeting men and trying to be an actor. She says, ‘we will all look beyond external beauty and see who she is on the inside’ in a patronizing and painfully transparent way.
The shocking truth of our society’s expectations about disability is prevalent in Snatched. Johns tells us she didn’t even realise she had a disability until the world noticed it first. Notably, when her parents told her to add a prosthetic; she confusedly asked why? This shows how the childish and pure mind of a six-year-old would never naturally discriminate; devastatingly, it is something society teaches us as we grow.
When Johns accounts the agonizing pain of her photos being leaked online, she uses a backdrop of comments from viewers such as ‘she has a diseased body’ and ‘how can anyone have sex with someone like that?’, which caused the audience to audibly wince.
However, Johns does not leave this play on a meek note, but a determined and hopeful one; that ‘she will be free’. Snatched is a vulnerable, funny and brave account of a life with a disability, it brought me profound hope and courage and I strongly recommend you watch it.
Written and performed by: Melissa Johns
Directed by: Lily Levin
Produced by: Melissa Johns and Anthony Kosky
Snatched has completed its current run. More information can be found here.