Content warning: sexual assault
In this digital play, writer Florence Espeut-Nickless shares the experiences of the eponymous Destiny, a 16-year-old growing up in rural Wiltshire. Sporting a candy pink velour tracksuit and coordinated make up, the fearless teen has big hoops and even bigger dreams.
With references to MTV Base, shell toe trainers, and EastEnders’ Stacey and Bradley (RIP), Destiny is a painfully Noughties play.
A ferocious and confident storyteller—with plenty of life experience to share—Chippenham girl Destiny begins her monologue in a club aptly named Karma. Regaling tales of WKDs and fake IDs, she seems like a happy-go-lucky teenager using her freedom to live a life that would make her classmates green with envy.
However, as the play goes on, it is clear that Destiny is not a girl to be jealous of. Born below the breadline, an absent mum means she is left to look after herself and her siblings (who also have names beginning with D—presumably to make it easier for their uninterested mother).
In a heart-breaking turn of events, the trusting Destiny becomes a victim of continued sexual violence and grooming. Her screams and statements are ignored, leading to slut shaming and victim blaming.
Espeut-Nickless is eerily convincing as the mistreated teenager. She deploys a wealth of facial expressions to portray all of Destiny’s varied adolescent emotions: self-assured, excitable, confused, naïve, damaged. She also has a compelling ability to distort her voice to match Destiny’s words, whether childlike or sombre, playful or sad.
As the vulnerable teenager let down by the system meant to protect her, Espeut-Nickless delivers a visceral performance that sends shivers down your spine.
The deftly peppered pop culture references may set this play at no later than 2007, but its themes of sexual abuse against teenage girls is unfortunately not a relic of time gone by. Even now, in a post-MeToo era, too many women are taken advantage of by predatory men.
Below the more prominent themes, Destiny acts as a commentary on how resources for young people have dwindled in the last 15 years, where safe places such as youth clubs have all but disappeared. With a lack of shelter for teenagers, society’s Destinys will be driven into unsafe spaces that put them at risk. It is imperative that centres for young people continue to exist, especially in rural areas.
The direction of the play is seamless, with excellent pacing that explains that Destiny’s situation is long-term and ongoing. Whether in the club or running down the street, directors Rachel Lambert and Elle While have created the uncomfortable atmosphere that is so necessary for this monologue. Destiny also innovatively combines theatre and film, as it brings together the rawness of live performance with movie features such as flashbacks and special effects.
The play is gritty and abrasive, but it avoids being depressing thanks to Destiny’s consistently upbeat demeanour.
In the last act of the play, we get a glimpse of Destiny’s outlook on her past trauma and the future that is possible for her. The reminder is in pleasingly simple style, thanks to a fridge magnet emblazoned with an Oscar Wilde quote:
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
She may be damaged, but she remains positive about her future. With a name like Destiny, she knows that with some faith and a dash of hope, she can make her own.
DESTINY is available to watch online for free until 5 October 2023.
Words by Tayler Finnegan
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