'Snatched' - Northern Stage

Actor Melissa Johns takes control of her body - and life - in her revealing one-woman show
June 21, 2022

Following the World Premiere at The Lowry in Salford in May, it is a privilege to have seen Melissa Johns (who you may know from roles in Grantchester, Coronation Street and from her appearance on Celebrity Master Chef 2021), revelation of a taboo-busting debut play Snatched at Northern Stage in Newcastle.

It is a one-woman show, with a live music soundtrack, that really deserves to be seen by all. This is a strong 4.5/5.

Johns takes the audience along on her journey and acceptance of herself, letting us in on memories that are all at once funny, heart-breaking and honest. Last night's theatre-goers shared the heartache, emotions and eventual delight, as Melissa Johns comes to accept herself and her appearance.

Snatched takes us through various stages of Johns life, including the tumultuous time in 2018 when her iCloud account was hacked and private photos of the actor were posted online (next to Jennifer Lawrence, so at least Melissa could see a teeny-tiny positive!)

This is largely a play of monologues that, at the post-show discussion Melissa explained, were recorded when she first began to workshop the idea and are not scripted, but her own starkly honest words. Describing how she felt when The Macarena was played at the school prom, her first kiss and phoning home to share with the family her joy at securing a role in Coronation Street. In her monologues, Johns captures a whole spectrum of emotion and this was mirrored in the reactions of the audience.

Although focusing on serious topics like female sexuality, body dysmorphia and hacking, this was far from the heavy play it could have turned out to be. Johns devastating sense of humour was evident at each and every moment and the audience couldn’t help but laugh out loud. I particularly loved some of the straplines posted during Melissa’s numerous interviews on breakfast TV shows:

“Disabled people allowed on TV before the watershed. What about the children?”

The actor captured the absurdity of the prejudice she has faced throughout her life – and within her writing and acting in Snatched, crushed it several times over. Johns most definitely has a positive outlook on life after coming accepting – and loving her body. She explains in the play that if you’re a glass half-full kind of person, she’s got an “arm and a half”.

Melissa Johns and Imogen Halsey

The post show Q & A revealed that there are still days when it’s tough to accept, but Johns clearly communicated it’s okay to deal with your body how you feel you need to deal with it. Nobody but you knows what you need.

The end of the play shows home videos taken by Johns’ grandfather of her throughout her childhood. These videos reminded the actor that she was once carefree and accepting of herself – and she repeatedly tells her younger self that she will give the happy child on the screen “the best life”.

Her advice to the room after the play was that this is something we should all do: Take out a photo of ourselves as a small child, see the joy there and take from that the strength we need to change the things that don’t bring us happiness. Profound.

I couldn’t sign off without mentioning the live music provided by the talented Imogen Halsey. Halsey supported the mood of the play perfectly without dominating the stage or the scenes. The reimagined versions of some of the familiar tunes were beautiful and the constant recurrence of Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman was a little touch of genius.  A reminder to both Johns and the audience.

This is a great play and Melissa Johns must be proud of her work. There is value in the message she has to deliver and I hope it will be seen by many as the tour continues.

Northern Stage.