Tag Archives: Alexis Gregory

“Safe” from The Hackney Empire

Highlighting the shocking statistic that a quarter of homeless and at-risk youths identify as LGBTQ+ is the laudable aim of this theatrical work created and directed by Alexis Gregory.

Safe is a verbatim piece with the words of four contributors – Jack, Samuel, Alicia and Tami – performed by Elijah Ferreira, Taofique Folarin, May Kelly and Mary Malone. Judiciously given equal consideration, all four are carefully shown as individuals and not just representatives of their sexuality.

These lives have not been easy. Hearing about them can be a challenge and many questions are raised. Abuse at home and school unites all four. There is a distressing amount of physical violence. Drugs and drink play a part too: Alicia’s account of her alcoholism is particularly forceful.

Gregory is smart to make sure we get to know the four before we learn about their housing problems. It’s important to see how ‘homelessness’ is more complex than the issue of sleeping on the streets. Support, in particular from the Albert Kennedy Trust, thankfully kicks in. Homes – in a profound sense – are a part of a wider support system.

For all the troubles Safe is a positive show. The spirit of this quartet shines out. Moments when the actors double as other characters (mostly parents) are well done but might be unnecessary? The words of the subjects are powerful enough without another layer of performance. Frankness, honesty and Jack’s emphasis on the joy of his transition into a man (a particularly welcome narrative) show four survivors who inspire.

Gregory’s finale for the show is strong. Including a poem from Yrsa Daley-Ward that mentions “many possible ends” the four begin to address one another. Discussing how they feel about being interviewed enforces the theme of testimony. It’s possible to see what part the very act of representation might play towards safety itself.


Photos by Jane Hobson

“Riot Act” at the Arcola Theatre

What are you doing this Sunday? If possible, make a date to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with some superb theatre. Alexis Gregory’s hour-long verbatim show has been racking up five-star reviews since it premiered last year. It’s easy to see why: it’s full of fascinating, impeccably told stories with an inspiring sense of urgency.

Through interviews with a trio of men, Gregory garners a surprisingly detailed insight into gay life in America and the UK over three decades. From the night of the Stonewall Riots, to the life of an avant-garde drag queen, to an activist against HIV/AIDS, this is a qualitative approach that counts as oral history as much as theatrical entertainment. You may learn a lot – or take comfort in having a story similar to your own heard. Either way, there is a fitting sense of pride taken in what these men have overcome and achieved.

It isn’t that unusual to see gay history on the London stage, certainly not the fringe. But Gregory’s skill, ably backed by Rikki Beadle-Blair’s direction, gets us close to the real deal here. The duo’s respect for the men is contagious and illustrated in the confident candour on offer. Each man’s own words are given their due, focused by the experience of collaborating on the project and honed into a text by Gregory.

There’s a lot of wisdom here, as well as a good few laughs along the way. But it’s also a salutary reminder of a generation lost because of the AIDS crisis that makes preserving the lessons from survivors all the more important. While the overall tone to Riot Act is suitably celebratory – noting progress – there’s agitation, too. How fragile those fought-for rights really are is highlighted. The show acts as a warning and a blueprint for action as much as a walk down memory lane.

Until 30 June 2019