Originally published on The Reviews Hub
Awarded 3.5 stars – Highly emotive
Four individuals take to the stage, young men and women that have had more than their fair share of life’s hardships already. These are LGBT individuals that comprise 25% of the homeless and at risk youth currently in the UK. All from broken homes, all fighting for their lives, each one rescued from certain demise by the Albert Kennedy Trust, which supports LGBT homeless young people in crisis. Safe is as much a testament to their work as it is to the inner strength of these individuals. Everyone needs to feel safe, whatever that word means.
Alexis Gregory compiles four verbatim interviews conducted with individuals into a woven tale of growing up, being ostracised and fighting both external pressures and inner demons that refuse to relent and allow each individual to discover themselves. In some ways they are forced to grow up too fast; in others, they aren’t given a chance to mature and realise who they actually are. Robert Chevara brings out honesty in each performance, no frills or fancy artistic devices, but four chairs, four highly emotive stories.
Each actor has an individual account and recollection, a distinct personality that complements each other to draw out some common themes. Substance abuse; being abused; kicked out of their home, their safety net; running away from home. Where do these people belong, do they even deserve a chance at life, at happiness? Questions that emanate from the four as they spin their tale, flattered to be asked to discuss themselves in a way that matters, that can help other people and that makes them feel valued.
Each story has its hook, a moment that grabs the audience. Laura Jayne Ayres turns to alcohol abuse and removes herself from the family home so as not to further emotionally damage her little brother. As such one of her final scenes when the two reunite is a powerful example of the fallout from a self-destructive path. By contrast the relationship between Michael Fatogun and his sister has always been strong, it’s his religious black parents that can’t understand how he became contaminated with ‘the white man’s disease.’ Riley Carter Millington finally feels himself once he transitions from a woman into a man – the procedure is easy, the inner acceptance of himself is taking some work. Kit Redstone self-medicates to help with her transition, selling her body to find the money she needs. Of all the characters Redstone translates to the stage most effectively, a stubborn, confident woman forced to adopt a stereotypical persona in order to survive in a world where even her customers beat and despise her.
As Gregory interweaves the four stories, each seems to jump over the other for their chance to relate their experience, a transformation given the initial resistance to speak in the first place. At times it feels like a competition, an attempt at who can shock the most, who can take the crown for most difficult life to date. But as Safe progresses it becomes a catharsis – a desperation for each to be heard now they finally have the opportunity. Nobody cared beforehand, nobody wanted to know.
What is Safe? It’s different to everyone, but Redstone sums it up best – acceptance, security, equality. Things that most people take for granted, qualities highlighted in this honest, open piece.
Writer: Alexis Gregory
Director: Robert Chevara
Runs until 22 October 2016 | Image: Jane Hobson