The statistic that a quarter of all homeless and at risk youth identify as LGBTQ+ is at the centre of Alexis Gregory’s verbatim piece Safe, which has been released to view for free on YouTube. It’s a filmed revival of the in-person run at London Theatre workshop back in 2016 but with a new out-LGBTQ cast.
The proportion of homeless and at risk youth who identify as LGBTQ+ has been explored in theatre more than once, Denholm Spurr and Manish Gandhi brought the subject vividly to life in Vicky Moran’s No Sweat at Pleasance last year, and although that was also partly based on verbatim text it also introduced a narrative that gave the audience something to work with.
Safe, despite Gregory’s clear dedication to the piece, feels like it’s missing an all important ingredient. The production flicks between four individual stories, and the way they are spliced together does make sense, but it’s difficult to conclude what we should do with what we’re hearing. Heartbreaking tales of alcohol and substance abuse, sexual abuse, and homophobia, blur so much they lose some of their impact.
There’s an added issue that these authentic words of real-life people feel overly contrived, often leading the audience to forget this is a real world problem, although Elijah Ferreira’s performance stands out as the most genuine performance.
Despite exploring some difficult issues, such as the stigma attached to transitioning and homophobia in family units, there does feel like an element of hope creeping in, perhaps none of the four ‘characters’ could claim to have a happy ending to their story, but there does at least seem to be light at the end of the tunnel for each of them.
Safe tells four very different stories, but finds a commonality between them. Alexis Gregory has certainly taken great care to weave the stories together in a way that gives each of them space to breathe, even if ultimately it feels like an incomplete picture of the problem.
Safe launches online at 7pm on 19th April and can be viewed via Hackney Empire