Tonya feeling Holy and Horny again

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Hear the title Holy and Horny and you might imagine a play a little different from one that deals with issues like sex abuse and rape.

But Tonya Joy Bolton’s one-woman show, which she also wrote, uses laughter to deal with some tough topics.

She plays 20 different characters, both male and female, in the 80-minute show, which is told from the point of view of a naive woman, Sheila.

Tonya described her as “quite a people pleaser, like many women, and really the play is about how she happens to take control of her own life on her own terms.

“She is a woman of faith and struggles with sexual desire and trying to be single and celibate. She has a number of disastrous and comical dates with life-changing consequences.

She added: “It’s very thought-provoking and really deals with issues around race, gender, identity and sexuality. The play really takes audiences on a journey.

“One minute they’re laughing out loud and the next minute you can hear a pin drop because of the silence in the auditorium.”

She added: “I deliberately chose to go towards comedy. It’s a great way of broaching these difficult topics. If it was very dark, everyone would have their heads on their knees. I want people to leave the show feeling empowered.”

The show has been a word-of-mouth hit in its five-year life and Tonya is taking it on its final UK tour.

She performed it in Doncaster last year and said audiences urged her to bring it to Sheffield

Tonya said that the play has touched people dealing with similar issues to Sheila, who is raped in the show.

She said: “Black and Asian women and women of faith are less likely to report sexual or domestic violence.

“From the research I did, the reasons were because many of the women fear being isolated from their communities or faith groups.

“It’s that whole classic thing of what goes on indoors stays indoors. A lot of black and minority ethnic groups have to deal with enough oppression about the colour of our skin and feel this is going to make us look bad as a community.”

Tonya has been overjoyed that some women have felt able to deal with abuse they have suffered and sought help or reported their attackers to police after seeing the play.

She said: “Not all the play is autobiographical but I was raped at 18 by someone I knew very well, which is often the case.

“At that young age I wasn’t even sure that I had been raped. The image I had in my head of a rape victim was of women bleeding, their bodies broken, and I wasn’t like that.

“At 18 I thought you were only raped if you ended up in hospital.”

She added: “It’s tough to look back on now but I want to tell people that there is life after abuse. I am now happily married and have moved on.

“What happened doesn’t define us unless we allow it to.”

Holy and Horny is at the University Drama Studio tomorrow night and then at the Library Theatre on November 7. Tickets for both shows: call 0114 223 3777 or go to sivtickets.com.