Safe is my verbatim theatre piece, created entirely, word for word, out of my interviews with four homeless and at risk LGBT youth, and via the Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity helping and supporting such young people.
Previously performed at Soho Theatre for the Pride in London Arts Festival, at London Theatre Workshop in the City and on September 28 and 29, presented as part of Norwich Theatre Royal’s season exploring gender and sexuality; Creative Matters.
Safe also explores the themes of family, addiction, religion, childhood, relationships, ‘the system’ and survival. All of my work is political; Safe especially so. This is the ﬁrst time I have directed my own work and also the ﬁrst time my work has been presented out of London; away from my usual audience; the London LGBTQ+ community, straight audiences keen to engage in the on-stage themes and theatregoers interested in new work, and oh, my mother.
My mother comes to everything I do. I’m looking forward to taking Safe, beyond the platform it previously occupied and presenting challenging queer work to a wider, non-London audience. Whilst gender, sexuality and identity are current ‘hot topics’, I think hosting such a season is a brave move from the theatre.
On arrival in Norwich, I spent three days interviewing local actors and creatives, for the four roles and an assistant director position. I met artists wanting to immerse themselves in the work and do justice to marginalised queer voices and aid in getting them heard. I met queer actors, keen to represent fellow community members and not hide who they are themselves. I met straight actors, just as passionately, wanting to represent. My ﬁnal assembled cast are stunning. I’m so proud of them. Times are changing. It wasn’t long ago that taking on a gay role was considered ‘career suicide’ and even more recently straight actors were lauded as ‘brave’ for playing one of our own, in a way that gay actors weren’t for playing gay, nor playing straight.
I’m under no illusions. My interviews and auditions were with liberal and open-minded theatre folk. As society progresses and doors burst open, it is plainly clear that others are being shut and walls are being built. We are progressing, yet regressing. 25% of homeless and at risk youth identify as LGBT, LGBT hate crime has increased by 80% over the last four years, I have seen comment-sections in recent, mainstream, online articles that are eye-watering and gut wrenching in their transphobic content and how safe do you feel, really feel, walking hand hand with your same-sex partner through London’s West End?
There is still work to be done. On a daily basis. Peter Tatchell said that the price of freedom is constant vigilance. This isn’t even freedom, yet. The real life characters that Safe follows are still working on their lives. I’ve witnessed their lives evolve since they spent that ﬁrst weekend with me, letting me interview them, sharing their stories and personal pain-ﬁlled aspects of their lives, in order to raise awareness of what they’ve been through, risen above, and the amazing vital work that the Albert Kennedy Trust does. I’m not giving anything away by saying that Safe does not have a nice, neat tidy ending. The real life characters lives don’t either. I don’t know if any of ours do.
This month, Safe is also published. I hope it’ll reach school’s, colleges and youth drama groups so that young people, LGBTQ+ and beyond, can gain an understanding of issues that effect our community… and beyond.
Follow Alexis Gregory on Twitter @lexigregory.