Safe’s theatrical style is barely seen other than on a much larger scale; it’s a verbatim play about homeless LGBT individuals at risk. Alexis Gregory has provided an insightful documentary with entertainment yet, as a play, its story telling remains static, without narrative drama. On the whole this style of work is not achieved without diligent research. Whilst entertaining, with verity it most certainly evokes a response.
Safe first surfaced at Soho Theatre part of the Pride in London Arts Festival. The current choice of venue is ideal, New London Workshop’s intimate space enabling Alicia, Jack, Samuel and another Alicia to bring forward their experiences.
Laura Jayne Ayres’ Alicia is from the northeast. An alcoholic barmaid belonging to a bigoted family, she clings to demons. Without a prosperous future, others use her sexuality to inflict pain.
Riley Carter Millington is the marketing drive for Safe arriving from EastEnders. Having played the first transgendered man on the soap, he’s progressed to stage with a similar role. Millington’s character is born Jenny, tried the name Alex, moving onto Jack. Jack is looking for acceptance, will he ever find his utopia and will it succeed in making him happy?
Michael Fatogun’s Samuel, an immigrant, has to endure gay conversion attempts forced upon him by his Nigerian parents after discovering their first born’s sexuality. Samuel is a playful character who, despite many challenges, aims to live by his own rules.
Kit Redstone’s Alicia, in heels with sass, openly discusses her abuse – from the family home to prostitution. Moving forward is a challenge, how is one to live independently without being taught self-care? Coming to accept herself she begins to self-medicate to bring forward her own sex reassignment.
Despite a few technical glitches, all four actors give very strong performances. Fatogun, in particular, with his gullible vulnerability brings an engaging charm to his experiences. To have seen further into Ayres’ Alicia would make her character strong. In her case the spiralling alcoholic persona seems to overpower the rest of her turmoil – especially considering her family background.
Safe brought back memories of Nadia Fall’s Home. Target, a homeless shelter in East London tells the factual experiences of the youth in London. Safe similarly opens the play with live music and is interspersed with Yrsa Daley Ward’s poetry. The efforts are commendable, but there’s too much happening.
It will be a massive shame for Safe not to go further from here. This is a strong piece that speaks about the vulnerable youth in small towns around the UK.
It is easy to think that the UK has accepted the LGB community. How far from the truth is this and what about the TQ+? Mental health issues and suicide rates are the highest amongst this minority group, yet the media’s focus on camp entertainment surpasses any lifesaving news reporting.
With the UK, maybe, at a stage where some of us may identify with the LGBTQ+ community or associate with them as friends as a nation we have a long way to go to achieve equality. Safe brings this awareness to our arts scene and its something we all need to talk about and understand.