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SAFE is an unusual piece of ‘verbatim’ theatre…

SAFE is an unusual piece of ‘verbatim’ theatre put together and directed by Alexis Gregory in collaboration with Park Theatre and Hackney Empire, “exploring the themes of gender, sexuality, identity, childhood, family, addiction, relationships, religion, class, race… and what it means to be truly safe in today’s world.” He interviewed several homeless and at-risk LGBTQ young people that he met, using their actual words, together with some poetry by Yrsa Daley Ward.

SAFE: Alexis Gregory - Hackney Empire © JaneHobson
SAFE: Alexis Gregory – Hackney Empire © JaneHobson

It is structured in a continuous series of monologues of varying lengths, the four protagonists never being allowed to react with anyone else until the very end of this 55-minute play. This brings out the loneliness and sense of isolation that they endure.

Gregory is very lucky in having four superb young actors who clearly empathise with what they are saying and are totally believable, giving the piece a richness that is not always apparent in the writing.

Elijah Ferreira (Jack) is, perhaps, most convincing in the ‘Tomboy’ role of someone who grew up being unsure of her/his sexuality from a very young age.

Taofique Folarin is very natural in the role of Samuel and, again, totally believable, able to bring what he has to say to life and give it meaning.

May Kelly, in the role of Alicia, is able to draw the audience in not only by what she says but by her physicality, and Mary Malone as Tami produces a very subtle interpretation of a role which could be quite shallow and lacking depth in other hands.

All four quickly make one forget that they have no one to react with except the unseen, online, audience and have the magnetic ability to draw the viewer in. The result is often very moving. It is not until the very end that we discover what “safe” actually is as far as these four are concerned, and in reality, it is very simple, so why does it seem so difficult to achieve the play asks.

Much of the success of the simple production is due to the lighting (Mike Robertson) and the director of photography, Mann Bros, who put together a seamless piece of theatre that is involving throughout.

The free to watch YouTube video begins with a lament sung by LaMont, which would have seemed more relevant had the words been clearer on first hearing.

Recommended – even if it is an uncomfortable hour’s viewing.

4 stars

Review by John Groves

A thrilling new filmed production of ‘Safe’ (“a compelling testament of abuse, resilience and ultimately hope”- The Stage) performed by an out-LGBTQ cast, created and directed by Alexis Gregory, is being made available free-to-watch online from Monday, April 19.

A quarter of all homeless and at-risk youth identify as LGBTQ+.

Alexis Gregory interviewed several homeless and at-risk LGBTQ+ youth, that he met via the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), to tell their stories. ‘Safe’, his critically acclaimed verbatim theatre piece, goes behind the stark statistics using the actual words of youngsters involved, together with live music and spoken-word written especially for the production by acclaimed poet Yrsa Daley Ward.

While hard-hitting and full of bite, ‘Safe’ is also full of humour and is ultimately, an uplifting celebration of queer survival.

Elijah Ferreira ‘Unknown Territories’ (Frantic Assembly), ‘Queer Lives at The Tower’ (Tower of London)
Taofique Folarin ‘The Grass Is Always Grindr’ (Amazon Prime), ‘The Lion King’ (Lyceum Theatre)
May Kelly ‘Welcome to Shangri-La’ (Hope Mill Theatre), ‘Get Luke Lowe’ (Amazon Prime)
Mary Malone 2020 East 15 graduate, upcoming; ’The Jacket’ (BBC)
LaMont Winner of Pride’s Got Talent 2018, ‘London Live Sessions’

‘Safe’ will launch online via the Hackney Empire website and Youtube, in partnership with Hackney Empire and supported by Park Theatre. Funded by Arts Council England.

A virtual online launch event and ‘post-show’ talk, also free to join, is planned for April 19th with hosts and guests including Tim Sigsworth MBE (AKT Chief Executive), Ben Hunte (BBC) and acclaimed filmmaker Campbell X, alongside the ‘Safe’ cast and creative team.
Premiere screening 7pm.

Hosted on the Hackney Empire website and on youtube

Creative team: Director Alexis Gregory
Directors of Photography and post-production: Mann Bros
Lighting design Mike Robertson
Production sound James de Taranto
Production Electrician Adam Mottley
Make-up Victoria Winfield
Production / Digital Associate Reuben Cook
Produced by Alexis Gregory

Partnered with and filmed at Hackney Empire.
Supported by Park Theatre
Funded by Arts Council England


  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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