★★★ Safe, London Theatre
The statistics about homelessness people are alarming. 25% of homeless and at risk youth in the UK identify as LGBT, a shockingly high proportion. Alexis Gregory has made a verbatim theatre piece looking at the subject. He interviewed a group of young adults who had been at risk or homeless and created a powerful set of interwoven monologues.
Alicia started stealing her family’s painkillers to self-medicate against her confusion and worries about her sexuality. Spiralling into a cycle of alcohol addiction she hurtles towards homelessness and hits rock bottom. Jack is confused by his gender, growing up as a boy in a girl’s body, suffering anxiety attacks and verbal abuse from his family who refuse to call him by his correct gender or use the right pronouns. Samuel realises that he’s gay at a young age but his ultra-religious Nigerian parents aren’t sympathetic to his sexuality. When he’s outed by his sister he ends up facing a volley of abuse and barrage of prayers along with plans to send him to Africa to ‘cure’ him. Understandably he flees. Alicia (same name, different character) is rejected by her mother and ends up in children’s homes and foster care. Trapped in the wrong body she works as a rent boy to get cash to get by.
The stories are a mix of pathos, humour and horror. Samuel’s story (told by the talented Michael Fatogun) is laden with wry humour and the vibrant wit of his character comes through. Riley Carter Millington is among the cast and plays Jack. Better known for his portrayal of Kyle Slater in ‘Eastenders’; Riley was the first transgendered actor to play a transgender character in a T.V. soap opera. It’s a strong cast and they’re gifted a beautiful script (or transcript, even). There’s a hint of music with alternating singers at the start of the show (Rudi Douglas did a spine-tingling acapella version of ‘Smalltown Boy’ on the show I saw). There’s also a series of thought provoking 15 minute curated talks each night after the hour-long performance.
The interspersing of the monologues with interactions of other actors playing subsidiary roles stalls the action and reduces the impact a little but it’s otherwise pitch perfect.
Troubling and painful as the stories can be there’s ultimately something redemptive about them too. The Albert Kennedy Trust’s work figures highly in their support of young LGBT people in crisis. This is a performance worth catching. There can’t be many LGBT people out there who don’t find something to identify with here, too. These are exceptional stories in one sense but not in another. These are ‘everyman/woman’ stories that are sure to resonate.
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Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.